RIVERVIEW – The Kickoff Classic between Riverview and Plant City wasn’t the closest affair, but it did provide some nice insight on what both the Raiders and Sharks will bring to the table in 2016. Plant City got the victory, 37-0, showing dominance on both sides of the ball for the majority of the night.
It started right from the beginning when PC’s Tydre Ward returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Ward would eventually return a punt for a touchdown as well, but the play was called for an illegal block in the back, irrelevant to the play. Early in the first quarter, Plant City QB Corey King found TE Austin Eldridge in the end zone for a 14-yard score, and then would find Xavier King for a 46-yard bomb in the 3rd quarter to give the Raiders’ their final score of the night.
“They were playing cover three, and I saw Austin as a second receiver in that play, so I was able to look off the safety and hit Austin in the chest for the score,” King said. King finished 6 of 7 for 154 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns. He looked good on the ground as well, getting away from some Sharks’ blitzes.
We found a few answers to what’s going on with the Plant City running game – Treshaun Ward will be the every-down back from what we saw this evening. Although he only had 39 yards and a rushing touchdown, he had a nice 22-yard rush in the first quarter that showed his ability that he can be an explosive back. Replacing Markese Hargrove is not going to be an easy task for Ward, but if he can play well consistently, he’s on the right track.
“The running game is still a work in progress,” Plant City Head Coach Robert Paxia said. “At the end of the year, those guys up front were very good, and they’re working hard to get back to that place. Treshaun Ward’s a very special kid, Ge’Shawn Parker is a very special kid, so we’ve got a pretty good duo that can hopefully get better every week.”
For the Sharks, at times throughout the game looked to have something going offensively, but it was a fumble or a loss that killed the momentum they had during the game. Freshman RB Dominic Gonnella was a good option for Mike Thornton’s wishbone, compiling 59 rushing yards on the night. Cam Lyles had 42 in his first game for the Sharks.
“Tonight, we really got a lot of young guys some good experience in the backfield against a quality opponent. I thought Cam had a good game for the first time ever playing in our system. They got knocked around a little bit, but that was good for them, once we get Tamel [McCall] back in the mix, get some O-Line things cleaned up, we should be able to get things going. In my eyes, Dominic Gonnella really showed some guts tonight and really impressed me because he was tough against a pretty good team. He’s going to be a heck of a player,” Thornton said.
There were two notable absences from tonight’s game – for Plant City it was WR Antoine Thompson, who was out with an ACL injury and Tamel McCall for the Sharks was out due to eligibility issues. McCall will be back for the Sharks next week, Thompson will be out for an extended period of time.
Next week, the Raiders will host Armwood at Raider Stadium in Plant City – the Hawks will be coming off of a 28-19 defeat against Manatee. The Sharks travel to Chamberlain for the first week of the season. Last year, Riverview defeated the Chiefs 28-14.