Rather than wallow in the Riverview High football team's 42-7 road loss against rival Venice High on Oct. 30, Rams coach Josh Smithers was focused on the future.
"If we take care of business, hopefully we have a chance to see them (Venice) again, and we'll hopefully improve,” Smithers said.
If the Rams want to dream of a deep postseason run, they'll have to do just that. The Rams (7-2) are still in good playoff position, ranked 10th in the state and fourth in Class 8A by the Florida High School Athletic Association's power rankings as of Nov. 2. But assuming the Rams keep winning, a rematch with the Indians (8-1) awaits, likely in the second round of the playoffs — and back at Venice's Powell-Davis Stadium.
The first match-up between the two teams had a decisive final score, though Riverview High jogged off the field with a pep in its step as the game hit halftime.
The Rams had tied the game at seven with 28 seconds remaining in the half on a 26-yard pass from junior Will Carter Jr. to senior Johnell Williams. The score followed a Venice turnover that set up Riverview at the 36-yard line. The Rams stopped Venice's ensuing possession and go into the half deadlocked 7-7. Riverview hit the locker room upbeat and it appeared that the game would be a fight to the end.
The good vibes wouldn't last through the third quarter. Venice forced the Rams to go three-and-out on its first second-half possession, then marched down the field and took the lead on a DJ Escort rushing touchdown. The score sucked the air out of the Riverview sideline. The Rams offense found no room to maneuver and the Rams defense, which held its own in the first half, wore down the longer it remained on the field. The Indians rattled off 35 unanswered points in the second half.
"They played 90 snaps,” Smithers said of his defense. “You can’t play 90 snaps against a team like this and expect to hold them out of the end zone or to 14 points. On offense, we’ve got to do a better job.”
Smithers said it felt like every time his offense did something positive it would be followed by something negative, like a bad snap. The Rams' touchdown drive followed a Venice fumble in Rams territory; the team didn't have far to go to score. Riverview finished the game with four first downs and 166 total yards. On he sideline, multiple Rams voiced disappointment in how the team was performing. Riverview isn't used to being shut down like it was Friday.
"It can be frustrating," Smithers said. "We've got to keep playing through these things. We'll go back to work and watch the film and improve on it."
Riverview will finish its regular season on Thursday with a 7:30 p.m. road game against Charlotte High (5-3). The game will be a chance for the Rams offense to right itself before the postseason. Smithers said the shorter week will allow the team to leave the Venice game in the past quicker than usual.