It all starts with stencils and a tape measure. In the dog days of summer, Riverbend’s football field “is really a blank page,” says Leonard Carney.
That would make Carney, in addition to his capacities as school security officer and PA announcer, something of an artist.
First, he walks off the distances: 50 yards, 100, tick markers, corner markers. Everything must be painted before a single down is played.
During the season, Carney and a few others begin their prep on Wednesday and complete a final setup—placing cones and yard markers on the sidelines—Friday morning. The entire process takes 8–10 hours.
“You do it for the kids,” Carney said. “That’s who this is all for. Hopefully, they can play on a real good manicured field.”
That wasn’t a luxury enjoyed by Carney and his teammates at the original Stafford High School. Carney lettered in football, basketball and baseball for the Indians, before enjoying a semipro career on the diamond with the Fredericksburg Giants.
Former Riverbend athletic director Dave Lancaster lured him out of retirement 12 years ago. After his predecessor failed to show on several occasions, Carney assumed public address duties at Riverbend football and boys’ basketball games.
Without Carney’s many contributions, “we would struggle,” said Riverbend athletic director Tim Stimmell, who noted that Carney also coaches baseball in the spring. “He gives us everything he has.”
Carney doesn’t seem to mind the thankless labor he puts in on a daily basis. If he’s hanging out around an athletic field, it’s just how he drew it up.
“I don’t care what sport it is, whether it’s girls’ softball, football, baseball,” Carney said. “As long as there’s a sport involved, I’m happy.”
“Nothing seems to bother” junior quarterback C.J. Thompson, who’s already shown a good grasp of Riverbend’s new shotgun-based, run-heavy offense, sccording to first-year coach Nathan Yates. The Bears want to spread the workload with LaTavien Dyles, J.T, Harvey, Tony Skinner and Jalen Gilmore all expected to see carries. Ky Graves-Kakosso is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver, and Thompson will also target his backfield mates with regularity. Savvy senior Skyler Grant anchors the Bears’ offensive line.
Grant will absorb double teams at nose guard and possesses deceptive athleticism. Harvey, an all-region lacrosse player, has surprised coaches with his play at linebacker since returning to the gridiron after a two-year hiatus. Skinner and Graves-Kakosso are established starters in the secondary, while Dyles flashed sizeable potential during a preseason scrimmage.
Andrew VanSlyke and Carrick Proctor are battling it out for the kicking and punting duties, which they may end up splitting. Diles and Skinner are the primary returners.
The Bears struggled mightily in 2018, Clark Harrell’s only season as coach. In Yates’ first season at the helm, progress will be measured in metrics other than win/loss record. The former Massaponax defensive coordinator has quietly assembled an all-star coaching staff, including former Free Lance-Star player of the year Nat Jackson. Defense should keep the Bears competitive while Thompson and other skill players learn the nuances of the offensive scheme.