By Brian Paglia
Riverdale coach Nick Davis knows what malady has handicapped the Raiders football program, or even all Clayton County football teams on a wider scale, and he knows he contributed.
That malady he sums up with one word.
"Transition," Davis says.
Few football programs enjoyed the luxury of stability Riverdale did when Bill Kennedy coached the Raiders through their first 18 seasons, becoming the county's all-time winningest coach. He was the longest tenured coach in county history at any school. Longer than Jackie Green (1990-2004 at Mount Zion) and Don Shockley (1994-2007 at North Clayton).
But in the 13 years since Kennedy's last season in 1995, there have been seven different coaches and eight coaching changes (Oh yes, this is Davis' second stint with the Raiders).
Davis is a prime example. After taking the Raiders to consecutive playoff appearances from 2004-05, Davis left to take over at Shiloh in Gwinnett County. He was gone for just two years, and in those two years Riverdale had different coaches.
So though Davis is in his fourth year overall at Riverdale, it belies the work he is still having to do this season in melding his program into his vision.
"We're a young football team," Davis said. "We're not very tough right now. We're trying to find out way. We have a lot of work to do coaching-wise, and players have a long way to go as far as being better football players."
The Raiders went 5-5 last season with 20 seniors, eight of which signed football scholarships. It was a year to get reacquainted; those 20 seniors were freshmen the year before Davis left for Shiloh.
But now they are gone, and Davis is left with a younger group with far less playing experience and an incomplete understanding of Davis' expectations.
"Last year was my first year coaching a lot of these kids," Davis said. "That's the difference. The senior class last year was ninth graders when I was here my first two years. They kind of had an idea of what to expect. These guys are still finding their way through. It's a process."
It's a reason Davis feels Riverdale is still behind schedule in determining who will start in the Raiders' opener on August 28 against Region 4-AAAA defending champ North Clayton. The crucial quarterback position in Davis' triple-option offense is still under competition, though Davis eluded that sophomore Laquavious Martin could be the starter and relieved by Lamont Knox.
Perhaps the only solidified position is at running back, where Davis said Deontre Trigger has been impressive this summer.
"He's been a tremendous worker all summer," Davis said. "Done everything we've asked him to do. We're real pleased with his progress."
But Davis is scrupulously evaluating the competition everywhere else.
"We're fighting every day," Davis said. "We're trying to find the best 11 people on boths side of the football, and that's who we're going to go with."