When the Riverview High football team lines up for the snap, the game becomes less of a sport and more of a mystery novel.
The central question: What is coming next?
The attack could come from anywhere, and that makes the Rams a threat. Last year, Riverview was one-dimensional, riding running back Ali Boyce, with occasional screen passes and vertical routes run for variety. In 2019, Boyce is gone, and as sad as coach Josh Smithers is about that, his departure has forced the offense to expand. Alongside quarterback Sean White’s development, the expansion has revealed a number of playmakers.
The result: The most balanced Rams team in years, according to Smithers. That showcased itself in the Rams’ 35-28 road win against Braden River High on Aug. 30. White threw three touchdowns — one each to the Hayes brothers (junior Michael and sophomore Omari) and to junior Michael Fraraccio — and ran for two more. He also has sophomore wideout Duke Timmons and senior wideout Hanser Garcia to find. A team can cover some of these players on a given play. It is difficult, if not impossible, to cover all of them.
“Sometimes when you have a great back like Ali, it’s almost like cheating, giving him the ball,” Smithers said. “It’s the easy solution. But I was happy with how balanced it was (against Braden River).
“The biggest difference is Sean. This is the first time since I started here (in 2016) that we have had a quarterback for two years in a row. Sean, with his confidence and understanding of the offense, has made some great decisions and great throws. He is really spreading it around.”
Omari Hayes, in particular, has made a sizable impact on the season. Smithers said he and his staff probably made a miscalculation leaving Hayes on the junior varsity team last season instead of elevating him to varsity immediately. He is an explosive player in the mold of DeSean Jackson. His combination of straight-line speed and agility makes him dangerous in the open field, whether in the passing game or return game. Besides his 65-yard touchdown against Braden River, he also had a 70-yard kickoff return to the Pirates’ 35-yard line.
The Rams’ quarterback loves his new arsenal.
“It’s great,” White said. “This is my second season. We can throw more. Our offensive line is solid. We have fast receivers, receivers who can run routes, receivers who can catch. We have everything we need on the outskirts of our offense.
“It is fun to know we can do anything we want, really. Run it, pass it. It is nice to see it succeeding.”
The running game shouldn’t be forgotten. White himself is a threat, especially in the red zone. Michael Hayes and Cardinal Mooney transfer Tray Hall, a senior, also get carries. Hall made his debut against Braden River after missing week one with an ankle injury and impressed the coaching staff with his ability to get the tough yards, especially on third down.
That ability to prolong drives has given the Rams’ defense a chance to rest, a key thing when the defense has had trouble getting off the field themselves, Smithers said. As the season trudges along, that will only increase in importance.
Smithers gives credit to assistant coach Jared Clark for calling a great offensive scheme and keeping defenses on their heels. Time will tell if the offense can help the Rams get back to the final four. For now, fans can enjoy watching them like they enjoy an Agatha Christie work: Taken by surprise.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.