SARASOTA, Fla. - Heading into the season, St. Petersburg versus Riverview wasn't a game that jumped off the page as being a critical one, outside of it being a Class 8A, District 7 matchup. That's in large part because both teams were coming off sub-.500 seasons. Yet it's late October, and with both teams touting winning records in 2013 (the Rams at 5-2, the Green Devils at 6-2) and a playoff spot on the line, the stakes are about as high as they can get.
“Obviously it's [a big game],” Riverview Head Coach Todd Johnson said. “Our kids have been preparing themselves for this game for a long time, and they've put themselves in the position for this game to be big by playing well this season.”
Aside from a tough loss against state powerhouse Manatee, in which the Hurricanes blanked them 47-0, the Rams are a much-improved team this season. They head into Friday night's game coming off of consecutive victories against Palm Harbor University and Lakewood Ranch. After going a combined 7-13 in 2011 and 2012, they have proven to be one of the better teams in Class 8A high school football. Their coach, for one, is not surprised at the success.
“We have a group of guys who really have bought into (this program) the past few years,” Johnson said.
Friday night's game will mark the teams' first matchup since a preseason game in 2012. Johnson discussed how his lineman – both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball – need to play well to come away with a victory. He added that it'll be important to combat the St. Pete's wing-T offense, in which the Green Devils chip away with running plays, then take their chances passing over the top.
“We just have to be patient, but at the same time be physical,” Johnson said.
For both teams, this game means more than just a district win – it's a spot in the postseason. Knotted up in the district standings at 1-1 apiece, Friday's contest between St. Pete and Riverview can be considered a playoff tiebreaker.
Kick-off at Riverview for this game of the week is set for 7:30 p.m. ABC 7 will bring you additional coverage of the game on Friday's 6 p.m. broadcast, with stats and highlights on Football Friday Night at 11:15 p.m.