Mature Rickards Football Team Looks to Claim Berth in District Playoffs
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Don’t count Rickards’ head coach Quintin Lewis among those fans who will buy into the belief that losing a non-district game seldom has any bearing on a high school football program.
Since the Raiders fell 37-8 to Bentonville of Arkansas in mid-September, Lewis has been looking at the out-of-state loss as one of the most beneficial experiences that his players have had. He saw his players grow up the week after losing to Bentonville, a perennial power in Arkansas, Lewis said.
“That game is what matured us,” he said. “It made us understand how special football is. We don’t take teams for granted anymore; we’ve been playing some real good football. We learned a lot in how to prepare and focus.”
Those are some of the intangibles that cause Lewis’ optimism about the Raiders’ chances of advancing to the FHSAA playoff for a second time since he took over the program four years ago. Rickards faces Godby on Friday in a season-defining game that will put the winner in the District 2-5A playoffs.
“It’s a must-win for us,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to have it.”
And, for more reasons than the playoff berth that’s at stake. The Raiders would like to snap a 10-year streak of losing to the Cougars as they revive a decades-old rivalry.
The showdown has become a must-win situation for both teams, as only one more team from the district could qualify for postseason. Rickards lost its first chance to advance when it lost to Wakulla High two weeks ago.
Consistency will be important for the Raiders, a team that is showing this season it could finish stronger than it has in the last three meetings with Godby.
Senior receiver Kalen Riles figures this could be the year that the Raiders play four solid quarters.
“That (not finishing strong) has been our problem each year since I’ve been here, but this season we’ve been doing better coming out fast in the third quarter and finishing in the fourth,” he said.
The playoff possibility is another motivation.
“It puts a little bit of pressure on us,” Riles said, “but we’ve got to make plays and want it more than them.”
Like Lewis, Riles also pointed to their game in Bentonville as an experience that should pay off Friday night. Specifically, he said, the Raiders have learned how to make in-game adjustments.
Staying focused is another factor, said linebacker Josh Butler, who is averaging 10 tackles per game for the Raiders. They can’t allow themselves to become overconfident because of Godby’s 2-4 record, he said.
“We have to look at it as if they are the number one team in the nation and come in as if we are playing the best team in the nation,” Butler said. “We can’t go in as if we are going to play a subpar team.
“We are fired up because if we don’t win we’ll stay home. We are really trying to get ready and being focused. We are hungry.”