2008 was a banner year for the Riverdale High School football program.
Just three years removed from a winless season, the Falcons racked up
eight wins and their first playoff experience in school history. Now they’ll try to do it again – in a bigger division.
* Players To Watch – QB Brady Weber (6-4, 218, Jr.; Stats through ten games — 146-262, 2,201 yards, 18 TD, 15 INT), RB/LB David Rose (6-0, 229, Sr.; 114 attempts, 548 yards, 8 TD), WR Chris Hepperly (6-0, 170, Sr.; 41 receptions, 507 yards, 2 TD), WR Steven Rahn (6-1, 180, Sr.), OLB Tyler Book (6-0, 170, Jr.)
* Outlook – 2008 was a banner year for the Riverdale High School football program. Just three years removed from a winless season, the Falcons racked up eight wins and their first playoff experience in school history.
“Going into it, we definitely thought we could have a good season with the experience we had at the senior level,” head coach Jeremy Kloepfer said. “We had about nine guys that had played varsity for three years, so we definitely had some experience coming back.
“As far as the season went, we finished up 8-2. Of course, nobody ever likes to lose any, but going 8-2 after going 5-5 the previous year, 2-8 the previous year, and for those seniors going 0-10 as freshmen, that was a heck of an accomplishment and achievement for those kids. And also for those guys to make the first ever school playoff appearance was also a heck of an accomplishment. They were very excited about that.”
Both the team and the community were excited about Riverdale’s first postseason appearance.
“(The excitement level) was definitely high,” Kloepfer said. “The kids were ecstatic about what they had done that year, and the community for never having gone to the playoffs ever before was very ecstatic about it. You get all kinds of people talking to you, talking to the kids, and cheering for the kids on Friday nights. It was just a one-of-a-kind experience for the kids, and I was glad that I could just be a part of that and help them get to that level.”
The playoff game itself did not go as the Falcons had hoped as they fell 49-0 to Pandora-Gilboa. However, the result did not totally dampen the overall experience of a playoff season.
“Of course, we went out and didn’t perform very well in that game, turning the ball over nine times,” Kloepfer said. “You’re not going to win many games doing that. All in all, it was a pretty good season — definitely an improvement — but I still think we can make some more strides this coming year.”
If, however, this year’s team makes it back to the postseason, their road to a victory could be more difficult as Riverdale makes the jump from Division VI to Division V. But Kloepfer says the team just needs to worry about the teams in front of them.
“Everybody’s asked me about it, and I just say ‘Hey, we’ve got ten games scheduled, and we’ve got to go out there and try to win every game,'” Kloepfer said. “At the end of the season, if we’re lucky enough to make the playoffs, then we’ll go out there and play that eleventh week. I understand too as a coach and some of the teams that we play, we may not get that opportunity in Week 11 even if we do go 10-0. We’ve got to take care of our business each week, and the computer rankings will take care of themselves. Like I said, if we’re lucky enough to make it to the playoffs, great. If not, I just hope we can have a successful season.”
This year’s team will go through a path not unlike the one traveled in 2008.
“It’s pretty similar to last year,” Kloepfer said. “We’ve got one new team on there early on in the second week (McGuffey Upper Scioto Valley). We’ve got Wynford, who opens up our conference play in the MCC, and they’ve won our conference four or five years in a row unbeaten. Last year, we were winning that game 13-12 with 5 minutes and 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and they went on to score 22 points unanswered due to turnovers on back-to-back plays and a blocked punt prior to those two. They went on to do what championship teams do, and that’s take advantage of mistakes.
“So we’re looking forward to that one in Week 4, and we’ve got Ontario and Bucyrus, who are Division IV teams. You always have to worry about them because having 80 or 90 kids on your squad, it’s not really a rebuilding year when you’re in a small conference; you just kind of reload and move on. Then the other schools are comparable to our size, so we kind of expect the same thing that we try to bring on Fridays.”
This year’s team returns eight starters on offense and five on defense. Kloepfer expects the offense to be a strength of this year’s team.
“I think offense is a place where we should excel,” Kloepfer said. “We have eight starters back from last year’s team, and that’s a pretty good thing to have coming back, especially when your offense was able to be as productive as we were. The thing that I think we need to improve on is offensively we have to limit our turnovers. Last year, we had way too many turnovers. We had a sophomore (quarterback) running a brand new offense, and I think he struggled a bit with reads. I think we’ll definitely make huge improvements there.
The offense moved to a spread attack last season after being in a run-dominated I-formation in previous years. This year’s team may mix both looks.
“This year we’ll stay in the spread, but we’re still going to mix in the I a little bit because our running back is back from last year,” Kloepfer said. “He’s probably going to get a lot more touches this year. Last year, early on especially, he didn’t get a lot because we moved him from guard to running back, and he wasn’t quite sure yet how to handle that position but definitely came on in the season.”
Defensively, there are a few more holes to fill.
“On the defensive side of the ball, that’s where we lost six starters,” Kloepfer said. “That’s definitely going to be a side of the ball that’s going to be some concern. We’ve got to make sure we get some continuity early on. That way everybody knows gaps and their assignments and how the person next to them plays their spot.”
The offseason has been a positive one for the Falcons. Players have filled the weight room ever since the end of the 2008 campaign.
“Through the winter, it was the highest number I’ve ever had since I’ve been here in the weight room,” Kloepfer said. “In the spring, we had a lot more kids in spring sports so the numbers went down there, but compared to last year, we still had more. At the start of the summer, (we had) 35 kids in here every day. For a small school, I think that’s a pretty good number for a non-mandatory workout.”
The team has also made big strides towards becoming a cohesive unit. Kloepfer says that the team unity that the team picked up from last season has continued on into this season.
“Last year, I think they definitely had the team concept down,” Kloepfer said. “I’ve been harping on that since I came in here three years ago, and they finally last year I think realized what it meant to be a team, how you go out there and support each other day in and day out. I think this year’s team has already talked about that in the early offseason here, about how they have to be together as a team, they have to do things together as a team, and they have to go out there and practice and play as a team.”
9/4 @ UPPER SCIOTO VALLEY
9/11 @ RIDGEMONT
9/18 @ WYNFORD
10/2 @ CRESTLINE
10/9 BUCKEYE CENTRAL
10/16 @ LUCAS
10/30 COLONEL CRAWFORD