Riley Sheehan always considered himself to be small.
He was one of the youngest guys on the Riverview High varsity football team, who turned to his junior and senior counterparts for guidance.
But somewhere along the way, the then 185-pound freshman offensive and defensive lineman developed into a 240-pound senior, who is now being called upon to help lead the Rams back to the playoffs for a second-consecutive season.
“I’ve definitely progressed since then,” Sheehan says. “I’m faster and stronger now, and I feel like I’m a better leader.”
Sheehan began playing football for Riverview as a freshman and quickly made an impact. He was called to the Rams varsity squad the last two weeks of his freshman season and earned a spot on Riverview’s varsity roster the following spring.
“It means a whole lot,” Sheehan says of playing for Riverview. “This is my second family. It’s everything I could imagine. It’s a brotherhood.”
Over the past two years, Sheehan has helped Riverview post an 11-9 record while finishing as the district runner-up and earning a berth in the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.
As a senior, Sheehan is eager to see what the season holds for the Rams.
“We’re definitely way better than we were last year,” Sheehan says. “We don’t want to take steps backward. We just want to keep moving forward and keep the legacy moving on.
“For the seniors, we want to be known as the class of 2015 that brought Riverview to the next level,” Sheehan says. “We just have to continue to work hard and get better every single day.”
Following this season, Sheehan has aspirations of playing college football. He’s already been recruited by Bryant University in Rhode Island and also has looked at a handful of other schools as well.
For Sheehan, the realization that he’ll be donning a Rams uniform for the final time later this season is still miles away. Eventually, the final seconds will tick off the fourth quarter, in a playoff game if Sheehan has his way, and he’ll be forced to say good-bye to his second family.
“It’s just moved so fast,” Sheehan says. “It seems like two weeks ago I was a small freshman. I didn’t expect it (to move so fast). It still seems like I’m the smaller guy. I came in so much smaller. I didn’t realize I grew up.”
But, for now, Sheehan is focused on taking each game as it comes and reveling in the excitement that comes from representing his school while playing under the lights every Friday night.
“It’s football season — Friday Night Lights,” Sheehan says. “What can’t you love about that?”
BY THE NUMBERS
2 - The number of district games the Rams won last season.
5 - The number of consecutive victories Riverview posted to close out the 2013 regular season and earn a berth in the playoffs.
37.7 - The average number of points the Rams scored in their seven victories last season.
2008 - The last season the Rams won a district title and advanced to the playoffs before finishing as the district runner-up last season.
Class 8A-District 7
Aug. 29 vs. Bayshore (7 p.m.)
Sept. 5 at Booker
Sept. 12 vs. Venice
Sept. 19 at Lehigh
Sept. 26 BYE
Oct. 2 vs. Manatee*
Oct. 9 at Southeast
Oct. 17 vs. Palm Harbor*
Oct. 24 vs. Lakewood Ranch
Oct. 31 at St. Petersburg*
Nov. 7 at Sarasota
*Denotes district game
**All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted
Riley Sheehan is always up for a challenge.
So, when James Young, the owner of the Chick-fil-A on Clark Road and a friend of Sheehan’s uncle, David Meyer, challenged Sheehan to a game of two-on-two basketball earlier this spring, Sheehan couldn’t resist.
But a game of basketball wouldn’t be complete without a little friendly wager.
Sheehan and his younger brother, Casey, a freshman center for Riverview, bet Young and any partner of his choosing that they would win. In return, they would win free Chick-fil-A for a year.
And, if by some chance Young won, then the two brothers would do free yard work around his house for a year.
Sheehan played basketball in middle school but ultimately decided to forgo the sport for football. But that didn’t deter Sheehan — or his competitive spirit.
The two teams hit the court and at the end of the allotted time, the Sheehan brothers had notched a 21-14 victory and earned themselves a year’s supply of chicken sandwiches.
“It got pretty heated,” Sheehan says. “It was intense for sure. We played for about an hour. In reality it was probably only 30 minutes, but it seemed like a really long time.”
Following the game, Young handed both brothers a stack of coupons for 52 free chicken sandwich meals.
which Sheehan has been more than happy to indulge in on more than one occasion.
“I was pretty happy about it,” Sheehan says. “I love Chick-fil-A. I definitely go more now than I used to. I usually wouldn’t want to pay for it, but now it’s free.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
57 - Riley Sheehan, senior, offensive and defensive line
22 - Karan Higdon, senior, running back
35 - Mason Hupalo, senior, linebacker
Todd Johnson, fourth year
What are your initial thoughts on this year’s team?
We’re a young team. We have a lot of players who haven’t played a lot. I think our spring game helped cure some of that because now they know what to expect in real game situations. (Hopefully) they’ve got a good feel for what we’re trying to accomplish.
What are your expectations this season?
I want us to handle ourselves with class and compete as hard as we can in everything that we do.
What would you say is the strength of this year’s squad?
Our skill positions. We have a couple running backs and wide receivers who can make things happen. It’s up to us to get the ball in their hands.
What’s the one area that still needs improvement?
Our inexperience. We just have to get those guys varsity game time reps and get them comfortable.
How do you prepare your players for Friday nights without them actually having played a game?
It’s hard. You can’t replicate the atmosphere of a Friday night and playing against another team. There are no substitutions. You just have to know what your job is and your role. If you can do that, then you have a pretty good chance to be successful.
Click here to view the Riverview High School 2014 football roster.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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