Springdale looks to avenge loss to rival Riverview
The Riverview-Springdale football rivalry conjures seasonal images: scattered leaves, the feel of crisp fall air and even a little Halloween — with all of the orange and black to match.
But it also brings about thoughts of Springdale’s return to prominence in a rivalry that was once controlled by the cross-river Raiders.
Riverview might lead the all-time series 23-12, but Springdale has won 10 of the last 13 meetings, and 8 of the last 9. The Lower Valley Bowl, however, belongs to Riverview unless the Dynamos can take it back Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field.
The Raiders surprised the Dynamos, 7-0, last season. Revenge is in the cards for the Dynamos (3-2, 1-1) who want no part of another defeat to a team they simply don’t like.
“I wouldn’t use the word hate but these schools do not like each other,” Springdale coach Dave Leasure said. “I don’t care if it’s soccer, basketball, baseball or football, it just seems like this game carries more weight than the others. Both sides want to win badly, that’s just the way it is.”
The feeling is mutual in Oakmont — for the most part. New coach Matt Bonislawski, a former Highlands and UConn quarterback, is new to the matchup.
“It’s a big game, and our kids are excited,” he said. “There have been a lot of good games in the past. We’re still reeling a little bit.”
Riverview (1-3, 1-3) has dropped three straight after a season-opening 28-7 win over Leechburg. The Raiders have not scored since the second half of their 30-21 loss to Imani Christian on Sept. 10. The Raiders lost quarterback Jake Hanus in that game to a broken leg.
“We’ve been shuffling a lot,” Bonislawski said. “We had things going in the Imani Christian game. We were looking good and moving the ball. Jake took off and bang, he breaks his leg and he’s out.”
Still, history, remains on Riverview’s side.
It’s last three wins in the all-time series have been low-scoring games. Riverview won 6-0 in 2003, the year the Dynamos won the WPIAL championship. Riverview also clipped the Dynamos, 10-7, in 2006.
Bonislawski coached from the roof of the Riverview press box last Saturday in the Raiders’ 35-0 loss to Bishop Canevin. He was ill and had a 104-degree temperature.
A win Friday would make him feel much better.
“We’re just trying to get on track,” he said. “We’re not making excuses. We just know we have to find a way.”
Springdale (3-2, 1-1) has only played two conference games, losing to Clairton, 32-0, and defeating Leechburg last week, 57-28. The Dynamos don’t know why they came out flat in some of those past games against the Raiders. Current or past.
“If I could answer that question I’d be making a lot more than 38 cents an hour coaching high school football,” Leasure said.
Springdale hopes to use its size up front to bulldoze its way to victory. A power rushing attack — and just the right mix of passes by quarterback Sammy Carey — has the Dynamos in the thick of the Class A Eastern Conference playoff chase.
“I think overall we are playing well, especially offensively,” Leasure said. “I’m not pleased defensively. There are things that we need to improve … such as carrying out our assignments and playing with better technique.”
Springdale’s defense should get a boost from the return of Josh Harmon and Damian Brand. Harmon had to sit out last week after he was ejected the previous game, while Brand is returning from a neck injury. Harmon is a key run-stopper while he and Brand both give the Dynamos pass defenders.
Riverview’s go-to is running back Nasan Tibbens, a big-play back who had a key, 57-yard burst to set up last year’s win. Hanus had the only score in last year’s meeting, running in a 2-yard keeper with 2 minutes, 26 seconds left. The win snapped the Raiders’ eight-game losing streak against the Dynamos.
Tibbens ran for 229 yards on 28 carries in the win. Riverview stopped Springdale on a key fourth and goal from the 1 — a goal-line stand to remember.
“When you factor in his athletic ability with a staff that knows how to get him the ball in space, it creates problems,” Leasure said.
Springdale has had to make several offensive adjustments with the loss of tight end Joe Gedraitis to a season-ending knee injury.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor for the Valley News Dispatch edition of the Tribune-Review. Reach him at [email protected].