Riverdale rising junior defensive end Chidi Okonya has received 11 college football offers since early spring. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — The first year of the Terry Herrod era at Riverdale High school had its ups and downs.
With his two best players injured at the start of the season, Herrod had to rely on a medley of young players to fill the void. The Raiders struggled throughout the season to a 4-6 record, and missed the playoffs after a loss to Eagle’s Landing in the Region 4-AAAA play-in game.
However, Herrod points out the season wasn’t all bad.
“When your top quarterback goes down, and your best defensive athlete plays one quarter all season, it’s tough,” Herrod said. “The silver lining is that we had a lot of young guys gain valuable experience and are ready to step up this season.”
It is that mentality that has the Riverdale team excited about the upcoming season. With a number of key players back there is reason to believe that the Raiders can compete for a playoff spot.
“Year 1 of coach Herrod was kind of rocky, but we believe in him and his message,” junior defensive end Chidi Okonya said. “We have good players from here and that transferred in so it’s going to be great competition throughout the team.”
The Raiders entered the summer off of what Herrod described as a “successful spring practice” with an emphasis on running the ball and simplifying the defensive scheme. He pointed out a group of players who stepped up in the 10-week spring session and he expects to lead the way this season, including Okonya, Michael Slaughter and Joseph Cambridge.
“The team was very much led by seniors last year and I look forward to passing down those same lessons to the younger guys,” Okonya said. “The main thing is just hard work. If you keep the goal in mind and get better every day, then anything is in reach.”
The Raiders will keep themselves busy in the summertime. They plan to compete in 7-on-7 and lineman camps every week and conditioning three days out of the week. According to coach Herrod, as they prepare for their regular season opener against North Clayton, the team will only have roughly 10 days off.
“The goal is to have our guys as mentally and physically ready for the season as possible,” Herrod added. “These camps allow for our timing to get right, to get them in the mode of competing and gives us a chance to coach them up.”
Riverdale will face stiff competition in its region in Class AAAA in Jonesboro, which has won 24 games during the last three seasons, and in defending state champion Griffin. For now though, the Raiders are focused on the goal at hand and taking everything one step at a time.
“Our road will be tough but all we can do is focus on what we have going on,” Herrod said. “If our guys continue to progress and stay healthy, we have a chance to be right there in the hunt for the playoffs at the end.”