GAINESVILLE — Historically, it’s not a series that has been kind to the Riverside Military Academy football team.
However, over the past 12 months, the Eagles program has been rewriting their history books.
The Eagles beat Commerce for the first time ever last October. They won their first-ever GHSA postseason game last November. They knocked off Class 5A Johnson two weeks ago for the first time ever.
They sit sixth in the latest Georgia High School Association power rankings -- their highest position ever -- and will head to Bogart on Friday to take on Class A Private No. 4-ranked Prince Avenue Christian in their first major Region 8-A battle of the season.
Riverside Military (2-1) has never beaten the Wolverines (3-1) in six all-time meetings. The average margin of victory in the series has been 33.5 points a game. They lost twice to the Wolverines in 2018 but turned a 56-12 loss in a rout early in the season into a much-closer-than-the-score-indicated 48-27 setback in the crossover playoffs.
All of that has Eagles coach Nicholas Garrett curious for sure.
“Last year’s group really set the bar high for us and we had a lot of those guys coming back this year,” Garrett said. “We were able to make some history last year and that kind of got us on the map. The guys this year have been working incredibly hard since Day 1.
“It’s nice to be in the power rankings conversation. We’ve had some big moments over the past year. But this group also has a lot of work to do and a lot of room for growth. Can we make some more history? I don’t know. But I guess we’ll find out.”
On a positive note for the Eagles, Prince Avenue is without Class of 2021 No. 1 QB prospect and Oklahoma-commit, Brock Vandagriff (lower leg injury), for at least the regular season. He has been replaced by freshman Lucian Anderson, who has thrown for 277 yards and 4 TDs in just over one game’s worth of action.
Garrett, however, isn’t buying into that so-called “good news.”
“First of all, you hate to see a guy of that caliber not playing,” he said. “He is a phenomenal talent and fun to watch. You would think that’s a big blow for that team.
“It’s easy to be at peace when you hear that the No. 1 QB in the nation is out and not going to play against you. But the freshman they brought in has played pretty well. They’re still a solid team and will be extremely tough to beat.”
The Eagles can counter, though, with perhaps one of the better secondaries in the area. They already have 5 INTs on the season (Jordan Thomas, 2; Adriel Clark, Nic Hester, Lamar Gordon 1 each) and the defense has produced 8 turnovers as a whole. They have 2 sacks and 11 QB hurries in their first three games as well.
The Johnson victory was a confidence boost for sure and gave the Eagles a two-week layoff to ruminate on their successes. They led big early and then held off a furious second-half charge by the Knights to tie the game and then manufactured a late score for the win.
“What was big about that game was that the emotions of that game did not overwhelm our guys,” Garrett said. “There were a lot of ups-and-downs. They were able to withstand that big comeback. Then they rose up at the right time.
“That is something we think they can carry with them the rest of the season. They found out how to handle adversity and get a positive result.”
But for all the positive mojo the Eagles have walked around with the last two weeks, the Wolverines pose their biggest threat of the young season. Prince Avenue is still averaging 40 ppg even without its star QB and yielding just 19 ppg on defense.
Offensively the Eagles are slightly ahead of 2018 averaging 26.3 ppg and have scored 73 points (36.5 ppg) in their last two contests. But the Wolverines have not scored less than 34 points in any of the six previous meetings and the 27 points allowed in the crossover game was the most they have given up to any Eagles offense.
“Prince Avenue has a pedigree of winning. Their freshman quarterback is doing some good things. They have a lot of talent across the board,” Garrett said. “All we can do is just try to control the things we can control. No big plays on defense; no special teams mistakes; adjust on offense to what is working.
“But I can say this. In our (the coaches) minds, we’re already a better team than we were at this time last year. Does that mean anything? I don’t know. But I feel real good about where we are going into this game.”
RIVERSIDE MILITARY at PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Wolverine Field, Bogart
-- RIVERSIDE MILITARY (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion B): Off last week; defeated Johnson 32-24 two weeks ago
-- PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-A Subregion A): Off last week; defeated Providence Christian 49-3 two weeks ago
-- NOTABLE: Prince Avenue leads series 6-0. The Wolverines won 48-27 in 2018 in Bogart. ... It has been a lopsided series, which began in 2010. The average margin of victory in the series has been 33.5 ppg.