Rarified air at Riverside
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Certainly, the season hasn't gone the way Riverside intended. But there has been one very unexpected, very bright spot for the Warriors.
It's their productive passing game, which has ranked all season among the leaders in the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
And to make the story even more intriguing, it's been done largely through the contributions of three senior newcomers - receivers Marcus Reed and Damarrie' Lain and quarterback Trevor Rumberg.
Reed and Lain are basketball players who came out for the gridiron sport for the first time this fall, and Rumberg is a former wideout who was moved to QB after the graduation of Zach Petry left the job open.
"Coming into the season, I didn't realize that we had that ability to pass the ball around as much as we have been,'' said Riverside offensive coordinator Nate Johnson, a former Warriors running back. "It's been a strong point for us, and we've been leaning on it a whole lot.''
Through eight games, all three players have opened eyes around the league and put up some decent numbers, even though the Warriors (1-7) have lost a couple tight games and won just once this season.
Rumberg (6-foot-1, 160 pounds) enters the final two games of the season needing just 190 passing yards to become the program's single-season record holder. Currently, Josh Clark holds the mark, throwing for 1,613 yards in 2004. Rumberg, with 1,424 yards in the air, has also passed for 11 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
Reed ranks third in the MSAC in receiving with 38 catches for 778 yards and seven touchdowns, and Lain also stands in the top 15 in the league with 26 catches for 332 yards and two scores. Lain also ran for a TD against Cabell Midland.
The trio's development has been a boost for Riverside, which experienced problems moving the ball with the run after breaking in nearly an entirely new offense. Rumberg, in fact, leads the team with 323 yards and six TDs rushing.
"Going into the season, we thought we'd rely on the running game,'' Johnson said. "The first game of the season, we mixed around a lot of different running backs. Going into the South Charleston game, where the running game didn't work too well, we went to the passing game, and with about five minutes left, we were in the game and we'd done it all through the air.
"Since then, we realized we can throw it around pretty well, and we've kept rolling with it. We realized we can get behind people, and that's what we've been doing the last five, six weeks.''
Passing hasn't always been a staple at Riverside, since Rumberg stands as just the sixth passer to reach 1,000 yards for the season since the school opened in 1999.
"We've got a pretty smart quarterback,'' Johnson said. "Deep routes, short routes, intermediate routes, Trevor does a great job taking what the defense gives us, as to what routes are open. He's an all-around great quarterback.
"Rumberg plays a big role [in running the ball], too. At Winfield, the first play of the game he runs 70-plus yards on an option play. He's just a weapon, and we're blessed to use him like we have. We've never been a pass-heavy team, but we're more confident in calling pass plays than if Trevor wasn't playing quarterback. He makes great decisions and makes it easy calling plays.''
Reed (6-0, 156), a point guard who has been one of the basketball team's leading scorers since his freshman season, has also experienced some big outings.
He caught 10 passes for 215 yards and a TD against Parkersburg and the following week against Capital, grabbed eight more passes for 129 yards and a score. On Friday, he added eight more receptions on Woodrow Wilson for 114 yards.
"Marcus has been the big [surprise], I guess,'' said Warriors coach Ralph Hensley. "He's been a great big plus for us, and the kids are thrilled to death to have him. You can tell he plays basketball, because he goes up and gets the ball when he catches it. In the St. Albans game, he made a really outstanding catch in the end zone that was due to his basketball ability.
"He's been outstanding right from the very start. I was kind of shocked because he caught everything we threw to him. You get it close to him, he catches it. In our first game, I said to myself, 'Wow, we have somebody we can go to.' He and Lain have both been responding well. They take coaching well. They don't say, 'I can't do it.' They go out and try to get it done.''
The two best games for Lain (5-9, 157) have come against Parkersburg (six catches, 88 yards) and Midland (five catches, 85 yards, TD and a TD run).
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.