In a league where the toughest small schools play on the gridiron, Riverbank High School is out of its league.
Even head coach James Oliver will tell you that, and it’s the major reason he and his coaches went to the other coaches in the Trans-Valley League seeking approval for Riverbank to withdraw from the league and play an independent schedule. The other coaches agreed and the change will occur for the 2015 fall football season.
“We’re not a bad team, we just don’t belong in the TVL,” Oliver said on Sunday. “Our kids don’t quit, they give us everything they’ve got.”
But against teams like TVL stalwarts Escalon, Hilmar and Ripon, that ‘everything’ didn’t add up to any league wins this season. The Bruins did win a pair of games in preseason but then found the going tough as they entered league and finished with an overall mark of 2-8.
Oliver said they want to build the team but need to start having some success in order to encourage more players to come out, and to get the program back on solid ground. They had been moved at one point to the Southern League but Oliver said that isn’t an option now, as that league is already full.
“We went 6-3 against Southern League teams,” he said of playing them over the last few years.
Conversely, since 2006, the Bruins have gone 1-43 against Trans-Valley League opponents, Oliver said.
“We lose by an average of 40 points per game,” he said.
Oliver is in his third year of coaching at Riverbank and said he and his fellow coaches really decided the change was needed for the good of the program.
“We’ve got our administration on board and our Athletic Director (John Bartlett) too,” he said.
With approval from the TVL coaches as well, the school can play an independent schedule in 2015 after completing one more year in the Trans-Valley League in 2014.
Already, said Oliver, the schedule for 2015 is filling up. They will keep some standard preseason games with teams including Waterford, Denair and Delhi, and add some additional Southern League and Mother Lode League teams on to their schedule, including games with Linden, Bret Harte and Summerville.
Oliver said he believes with the dedication of the coaches and players and the solid effort he has seen them put in, they will find success when they start the independent schedule.
“We had to do something,” he said.