The thing about your football team going 10-2, winning a league title and a playoff game is that it makes people sit up and take notice.
As well it should.
Included on the list of the Associated Press Division VII All-Southwest District football team released on the site jjhuddle.com Nov. 19 were four players from Riverside, including the Offensive Player of the Year in Connor Cotterman. And in possibly the easiest call in the history of the AP voting process, Riverside head coach Tim McGill won the Div. VII Southwest District Coach of the Year. The Pirates’ astonishing season got them noticed.
This is Cotterman’s second straight appearance on the AP All-SWD first-team and was a shoe-in for the Offensive POY. Cotterman, a 5’11”, 215-lb senior running back, carried the ball 205 times for 1866 yards, averaging just over nine yards per carry and 155 yards per game. He had 11 100+ yard rushing games, scored 24 touchdowns, and put another 44 points on the board with his foot on conversions and field goals. Cotterman singlehandedly outscored three other entire NWCC teams this season. If that wasn’t enough, Cotterman was also named both the Offensive and Defensive POY for the NWCC.
Joining Cotterman on the All-District first-team offense was senior Trey Long, a 6’2” 230-pound road-grader who opened up many a hole for Cotterman and the rest of the impressive Pirate running game all season long. Interior linemen get no love from anyone but running backs. They never get their picture in the newspaper or online, don’t rack up fancy stats that anyone wants to read about and only get singled out when they get called for holding. But good ones can be found by simply scanning a stat line for a season. Long and company bulldozed Riverside to 326 rushing yards per game, just under 4,000 for the season, and 8.7 yards per rushing attempt. Long was the point man for that powerful attack and was recognized as such by the AP voters.
Just as impressive this season was the Riverside defense. While the offense was running wild behind Long and Cotterman, the Pirate defense was a wall, giving up only 11.8 points-per-game for the entire 12-game season. Shawn Crawford, 5’11”, 175-lb senior corner, earned his spot on the first team with his flashy yet fundamental play in the defensive backfield which included three interceptions, one of which he returned for a TD. Gaven Anderson, a 6’1”, 210-lb. sophomore lineman, earned his place on the first team defense with his ability to plug holes and tackle runners for a loss, something he did eight times this season.
Hunter Kreglow, a 6’2 210-pound junior offensive lineman, was also given an All-District honorable mention to round out the player awards for Riverside.
Perhaps the easiest call in the entire process was the one to name Tim McGill as Southwest District Coach of the Year. As mentioned in this space several times over the season, in just three short years McGill has turned Riverside from the team that everybody wanted to play on homecoming to the team no one wants to meet in the playoffs.
In 2011, Riverside won one game and that was by forfeit. In five of the Pirate games that season, they were outscored 286 to 6. In 2012, they again won one game, this time against a club team, but took lumps the rest of the season, getting shutout four times and giving up over 40 points-per-game. The turnout and interest was almost non-existent and they were lucky to suit up 20 kids for a Friday night game. The program was sinking fast when McGill took the reins in the fall of 2013.
Fast forward a short three years to November 2015. Under McGill’s direction, the Pirates gave defending Div. VI state football champion Minster fits for 48 minutes in a regional semifinal before falling 21-6. Forty or so Pirate players were suited up for the game. The Pirates did eventually get outplayed by a very good Wildcat squad, but they didn’t get out-hustled, out-smarted, or out-coached and the game was in doubt well into the fourth quarter. This is what made the decision to name McGill as the Div. VII SWD Coach of the Year such an easy call. Going 10-and-2, winning a league title and a playoff game is the sort of thing to gets you noticed.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.