In many ways, it’s an important year for the Riverside football program, and youthful coach Alex Daugherty expects more out of himself as he begins his second season.
The Warriors went 1-9 last season, extending their playoff drought to 12 years, and Daugherty knows it’s a fine time to make major steps toward improvement.
This season marks the 20th anniversary of Riverside football, as the program began in 1999 with a trip to the Class AAA finals in Wheeling. It’s also a new beginning for Warrior Stadium, the team’s home base, which is being fitted with artificial turf. And it comes during a season in which the Warriors have scheduled six home games.
“It’s a big year for us,’’ said the 24-year-old Daugherty. “We’re trying to bring the community together, and we want to rally around them. If we can pull together, it could be [memorable].’’
Daugherty realizes he’s fighting an uphill battle competing in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, where seven of the other 10 schools are led by coaches beginning at least their seventh season.
“With my age and the people around me and the teams I’m playing,’’ Daugherty said, “you’re looking across the field at some really successful coaches. I’ve got to put in a different type of work, and I take pride in that. I may be outcoached, but I won’t be outworked. I feel great about it, and I’ve done a lot.
“I tell our kids all the time that I want it to be both ways. We might be outplayed or outcoached, but we won’t be outworked. We put in a lot of work with our assistant coaches. I tell our kids we’re different here in eastern Kanawha County, and we take pride in that. It gets our kids to work hard because we’re playing hard for each other. That skill can be unmatched.’’
Daugherty knew his inaugural season was going to be a big learning experience.
“Like they say, you sometimes have to count out Year 1,’’ he said. “In Year 2, you look back at what you learned in Year 1. It’s the same with teaching situations in the classroom at college.
“People can tell you how to do things, but until you do it yourself, it’s completely different when the ball’s in your court and you’re making the decisions. You learn what it takes and hopefully it’ll translate into some wins and we’ll go from there, and get Riverside where we want to be.’’
Riverside’s turf field is expected to be ready for the team’s first home game Sept. 13 against Ripley.
Mud in your eyeJust because the state’s championship games are staged on an artificial turf field doesn’t mean the competing teams have zero laundry issues for their uniforms. Bluefield coach Fred Simon discovered as much last season.
The Beavers opted to use their all-white uniforms for the Class AA title game against Fairmont Senior, and that decision ultimately got them some dirty looks. As in dirty uniforms.
Flood waters covered the turf field at Wheeling Island Stadium twice during 2018, leaving a residue of Ohio River mud below the playing field. That mud rises to the surface during games, especially when it rains. In last year’s Super Six, teams playing in all three title games left the field with mud-splotched jerseys and pants.
Which can cause problems getting those uniforms cleaned, especially when they’re all white such as Bluefield’s.
“It looked like we had played on a dirt field,’’ Simon said. “Our white jerseys were so muddy. It was hard to wash them. It took a long time to get them clean.’’
Where Buffalo roamsBuffalo coach Brian Batman was looking at a nine-game schedule very late in the off-season as his program was making major changes in the opponents it played.
Luckily, Buffalo was able to get a Sept. 13 game against Montcalm, and even more fortunate, it was a home game, as the Class A Bison already had scheduled six road dates for the 2019 season.
“It was the last game we did,’’ Batman said. “We couldn’t find anything for a long time. Of course, there were some schools [willing to play] that we had no business playing, but Montcalm said they had an opening and we called them, and it worked out.
“It’s tough being here in Buffalo. The location’s tough [to find suitable opponents]. You want to challenge yourself, but part of it, too, is that we want to stay as close as we could, but still compete.’’
Fayette County consolidations wiped out two recent Buffalo opponents in Valley and Fayetteville.