By Brian Paglia
Despite two stints as Riverdale's football coach, totaling four years (and counting), Nick Davis has never coached against Forest Park, Jonesboro and Mt. Zion.
That will change this season. With the GHSA's new region alignments, Region 4-AAAA's members will feature eight of the nine high schools in Clayton County, a change Davis and other county coaches are embracing.
"It's going to be exciting," Davis said. "It's going to bring a lot of excitement to the season with a lot of Clayton County teams being in the region.
"It's going to be better for us. I think we'll be more competitive. I think we'll have a better opportunity to compete with the teams in Clayton County, because all of us are kind of similar in the type of players we have and the number of athletes we have."
Riverdale played in Region 4-AAAAA the past two seasons, which featured perennial playoff contenders Creekside, East Coweta, Newnan and Westlake. In Davis' second season back from a two-year stint at Shiloh, a Raiders team stuck in transition went 2-8.
Riverdale may still be in the midst of transition, but Davis said the next wave of talent should begin to arrive next season and he senses a renewed optimism and work ethic this spring practice, which ends with the Raiders spring game tonight at 6:30 on the Riverdale practice field.
"We're still going to be young," Davis said. "But the thing I'm excited about is the kids are very excited. They're very coachable this spring. Our overall chemistry as a team and as a coaching staff has been a lot better than it's been the last two years."
Davis attributes that to players acclimating to his program in his third season back at Riverdale. Among coaches in Clayton County, only Al Hughes (Lovejoy) and Rodney Hackney (North Clayton) have been head coaches at their school longer.
"The guys who are leading the team now," Davis said, "they've been with us going on three years. They've been here. Expectations as far as not creating bad habits or trying to correct bad habits, we've not had to deal with that as much."
Riverdale has five starters returning on both offense and defense, highlighted by quarterback Dequavious Martin, a two-year starter who's been limited this spring with a shoulder injury.
"He's a great leader," Davis said, "and we're looking for big things from him."
Davis is also expecting big contributions from defensive linemen Joseph Powell and Kofi Owusu, wide receiver/defensive back Kevante James and linebacker Rodrick Holloman, who led the team in tackles as a sophomore.
"He's really one of the toughest kids we've ever dealt with," Davis said. "We're hoping he can anchor our defense."