Power running game, with dash of an air attack, leads to early season surge for Riverview

Saturday, September 30, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Riverview’s powerful run game and ability to execute through the air has led to a strong first half of the season for the Raiders.

The Raiders (3-2, 1-1) have been led by a two-headed monster in the backfield of their Wing-T offense. Senior running back Carlo Buzzatto led the Raiders with 778 yards rushing with six rushing touchdowns on 85 carries this season.

Buzzatto rushed for season-high 245 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Raiders’ 46-30 win over Frazier in Eastern Conference play Sept. 22.

Joining Buzzatto in the backfield has been senior Landon Johnson, who missed games against Clairton and Frazier due to injury. In the three games he played, Johnson rushed for 526 yards and five touchdowns on 66 carries.

Johnson opened the season with a season-high 259 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 41-20 win at Beth-Center in nonconference play Aug. 25. Buzzatto rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Beth-Center.

The Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 start to the season after a 42-0 nonconference win over Carlynton on Sept. 2. The Raiders last started 2-0 over a decade ago in 2011.

“The captains were really close before stepping up as captains,” Buzzatto said. “We had a really good brotherhood bond. We thought if we brought that to the program that would be the best way to make a football team better again.

“We started to apply our own personal mottos to the team, and it started working out day by day, and we became closer than ever. The captains, and I’m not speaking about just myself, are great leaders.”

Buzzatto and Johnson combined for 306 yards rushing in the win over Carlynton. Buzzatto finished with 174 yards and Johnson had 132.

Riverview dropped back-to-back games with losses at Northgate, 38-21, and at Clairton, 35-3.

“We feel like a couple games slipped away from us,” coach Trevor George said. “But we will take a 3-2 start. We are trying to focus on week-by-week things now. We feel like in our losses, there are correctable mistakes and even in our wins, there have been correctable mistakes,.”

Even though their Wing-T offense leans on their run game, the Raiders passing game has taken another step forward to add a new wrinkle. Senior quarterback Rocco Cecere has thrown four touchdown passes this season, which is already double the amount the Raiders had all of last season.

“Being able to stay multiple in a run-heavy offense is huge for us,” George said. “Being able to change tempo and continuously stay above the sticks and not get behind the sticks and stay disciplined in a run-heavy offense is huge.

“Being able to throw the ball because we have the athletes to do so keeps the defense on their toes. It’s hard to stack the box full of seven or eight guys when we are able to drop back and throw the ball.”

Sophomore Rio Stotts has 389 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns this season.

Stotts, who has rushed for 292 yards, had a breakout performance in the win over Frazier as he had 100 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns — with two from the air.

As they start their second half of their season, the Raiders try to keep their attention on whatever is in front of them for that week. The Raiders hope this approach will lead to possibly capturing the program’s first WPIAL playoff win since 2001.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to win a rep in the weight room or trying to win a rep during practice, whatever your job is on that play, do your job and win that rep,” George said. “We are trying to break it down to small details for the kids. We don’t want to get too high or too low. We just want to win the rep, do your job and the rest will take care of itself.”


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