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Prep football: Youthful Riverside begins a new era

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It's only been six months since Steven Freeman was handed the reins of the Riverside High School football program.

Freeman, 26, was named as the Warriors' head coach last December following the retirement of long time East Bank High and Riverside Coach Ralph Hensley.

But for Freeman, a Cabell Midland and Marshall University graduate, the time span between his hiring and the beginning of the three-week June practice period has seemed much longer.

"This offseason has seemed particularly long while waiting for our first practices to come around," said Freeman, a former offensive and defensive lineman who graduated from Cabell Midland in 2005.

"Time has been dragging the last couple of weeks waiting for this period to come," he said.

Freeman's wait finally concluded Monday morning as the annual June practice period began for high school sports programs around the state.

For Freeman, who served as Huntington High's wide receivers coach, special teams coach, and passing game coordinator the past two seasons, the much needed practice time will be used to lay the foundation of his offensive and defensive philosophies.

"Our goal during this three-week period is to get our kids to understand the base system offensively and defensively, so when we get to August we're not running behind," said Freeman, who expected around 60 players to participate. "I've watched all their game films from last season and we only have a handful of kids returning that contributed on Friday nights.

"I don't have film on the rest of the kids. We have a lot of incoming sophomores and juniors that we don't know a lot about. Our roster is heavy with young kids and we're going to have kids that haven't played on Friday night.

"Our goal is not only to get the basics of our system down, but we're going to be in competition mode every day. These kids are going to be fighting for spots and playing time every day."

Although he served as the Highlanders' passing game coordinator last season, Freeman doesn't expect Riverside to become a pass happy program.

"We'll really try to be balanced offensively," Freeman said. "I like to call our offense a pro-style offense. We're going to be balanced and we're going to use some of the concepts that they use on Saturday and Sundays. You'll see us in a tight set with multiple tight ends, and you may see us in a multiple wide receiver set and anything in between.

"You get a lot of different looks defensively in our conference. Every week defenses are going to try to design ways to stop you and our offensive goal is to be flexible with what we do in order to exploit what the defense is giving us.

"We want to be able to put our athletes in position to make plays for us."

After off-season discussions with both Riverside coaches and players, Freeman doesn't expect much of a learning curve when it comes to picking up the nuances of the new offense.

"I've talked to some of the holdover coaches from the previous staff and I've talked to some of the kids about the things we hope to do," Freeman said. "For the most part they said our offensive is a little simpler with regard to terminology in the past.

"I think they'll pick it up pretty quick."

Contact sportswriter Michael Dailey at mike.dailey@dailymail.com or 304-348-1735.


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