After three weeks of the 2010 season, the Riverdale football squad was on the verge of falling off a cliff.
The Raiders were 0-3, rudderless, and devoid of any leadership or direction.
That's when the team's underclassmen took charge and accepted ownership and accountability for what was happening
With new direction, the Raiders ran off six straight wins and earned a berth in the playoffs, losing to Naples in the first round.
With those leaders now seniors, Raiders coach Rob Hinson is hopeful they can continue in those roles, be more consistent this season and improve on its 6-5 mark and earn its sixth postseason bid in seven years after decades of being a Lee County football patsy.
With 15 of 22 starters returning, and 22 seniors on the roster, his hopes have a good chance of becoming reality.
"Last season we were sophomore and junior heavy and outmatched (in the playoff game with Naples)," Hinson said. "We weren't ready for them."
Funny thing about sophomores and juniors - they become juniors and seniors. This group is confident the lessons from last season will stick with them for a challenging 2011 slate.
"We matured after the first three games and started to take it seriously," senior running back Levi Sourinha said. "Our juniors stepped it up."
"The seniors weren't looking to be leaders and in districts we kicked it in high gear," senior quarterback Jeff Colton said.
Colton and runningbacks Sourinha and Devian Diggins have the skill and experience to score some points, while senior guard/defensive tackle Cody Fraley will anchor the line on both sides of the ball.
"We're more mature this season, especially in the trenches," Hinson said.
Junior linebacker Treston Dunn, who has started since he was a freshman, is expected to have a big season.
While the Raiders lost kicker Mark Deboy to graduation, they expect Dylan Traurig to step in and be a weapon.
Riverdale's schedule certainly will give them fits, with five of their first seven games on the road, including one with powerhouse Charlotte before closing with three at home, and the Battle For The Bell against Lehigh on Nov. 10.
Fraley looks at the road-heavy beginning as a challenge.
"I like away games more. You're not defending something, but taking something away," Fraley said.
Of course, for Hinson, it's a matter of taking things as they come.
"We want to improve each week, take them one at a time and not get ahead of ourselves," Hinson said.
With Riverdale in the newly configured District 6A-11 with Fort Myers, North Fort Myers, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Bishop Verot and South Fort Myers, wins will be difficult to come by.
"We take districts serious. It's always our goal to win," Colton said. "Football in 6A is always physical."
No matter how things turn out, leadership isn't going to be a problem.
"We've seen what happens when you waste a season. It showed us you can't mess around," Sourinha said.
The Raiders open the season on the road at Naples Lely on Sept. 2.
Sept. 2 - at Naples Lely
Sept. 9 - at Charlotte
Sept. 16 - vs. Dunbar
Sept. 23 - vs. Fort Myers-x
Sept. 30 - at Bishop Verot-x
Oct. 6 - at South Fort Myers-x
Oct. 21 - at Ida Baker-x
Oct. 28 - vs. Island Coast-x
Nov. 4 - vs. North Fort Myers-x
Nov. 11 - vs. Lehigh
Head Coach: Rob Hinson ('10), 2nd year (6-5)
Assistants: Tom Roszelle (off. coord./RB), Shawn Ades (def. coord.), John Bailey (linemen), Tim Allen (linemen), Allen Cochrane (def. coord./LB).
Team Colors: Garnet & Gold
Stadium: Karl Engel Field, 2600 Buckingham Road, Fort Myers
Playoff History: 1998 - Sarasota Booker 27, Riverdale 15. 2004 - Bradenton Southeast 42, Riverdale 7. 2005 - Riverdale 42, Naples Lely 14. 2008 - Naples 61, Riverdale 23. 2009 - Lehigh 15, Riverdale 7. 2010 - Naples 49, Riverdale 14
Home: 3-2 Away: 3-3 District: 4-1
East Lee County 32, Riverdale 26
Charlotte 40, Riverdale 0
Lehigh 26, Riverdale 21
Riverdale 47, Mariner 13
Riverdale 39, Fort Myers 20
Riverdale 45, Dunbar 13
Riverdale 13, Bishop Verot 10
South Fort Myers 39, Riverdale 3
Riverdale 13, North Fort Myers 3
Riverdale 31, LaBelle 11
Naples 49, Riverdale 14