The two programs has a social media spat this week, setting the table for a fiery 2021 contest.
High school football practice doesn't start until Monday, but the rivalry heat is already here.
Things got going this week when video of the Sarasota High football team helping push a charter bus out of a ditch after a Grind It Out camp session hit the social media streets. On its own, it's a fun video. You can see how excited the Sailors are to get the bus unstuck. I might have written about it anyway — but then the team's official Twitter account retweeted the video, along with the following message:
"Moving charter buses, beating (Riverview High), and having a real good time. Some of the things we are doing this year."
The tweet ended with a shrugging emoji, as if these things were all a given.
It's a bold claim for head Coach Brody Wiseman's program to make considering the Sailors have lost the last nine meetings with the Rams, including a 28-7 loss in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the Rams did not take kindly to the claim. Riverview head Coach Josh Smithers responded simply: "Why?" Others, like Rams sports announcer Jake Wilson, were more outspoken, saying the Sailors should "beat us before you try and talk that trash." Rams rising sophomore offensive lineman Malik Byrd said "It's going to be real funny when we blow y'all out by 40 (points)."
Even Venice High head Coach John Peacock, who doesn't shy away from digs himself, responded to the tweet with a GIF of John Cena saying "Uh oh!"
The Sailors didn't back down. Quoting a response from the Rams' official account — a GIF of Michael Jordan laughing — it sent a GIF of Neil Patrick Harris in "Starship Troopers" saying "It's afraid."
I understand that some folks of older generations may have no patience for this stuff. If your big takeaway from all this is that they should settle it on the field, I can't argue with you. For me, though, this exchange is everything someone covering the sport could want. Sports are nothing without stakes and drama, in whatever form that takes. There's a reason that Tonya Harding has a big-budget movie made about her and Michelle Kwan does not, even though Kwan was the more successful ice skater. While some relatively harmless trash talk between local high school football teams isn't movie-level stuff, it's something, especially when the program picking the fight hasn't won in a while.
The Sailors are getting better under Wiseman. I feel confident in saying that. Are they good enough yet to beat the Rams? We'll see. Riverview still went 9-1 in the regular season in 2020.
One thing I am sure about? This exchange will go on the bulletin boards in each team's locker rooms. It will not be forgotten. The game will be even more physical than usual as a result. The two teams will have to wait a while to settle the score; they don't play until Oct. 1, six weeks into the season.
You won't have to wait nearly as long for our season previews of all four area teams, though. Those will start next week.
Buckle up. Football is back.
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