RIO VISTA — The Rio Vista Eagles and Tolar Rattlers are scheduled to square off Friday in a key District 7-2A Division I showdown with heavy playoff implications.
While it’s not a win-and-in or lose-and-you’re-done scenario for the Eagles, a win Friday would almost assuredly put Rio Vista in the postseason, making this one of the biggest games the Eagles have played in the past 15-plus seasons.
Unfortunately for Rio Vista, the Eagles will limp into this week’s game — literally because of a number of key injuries and figuratively coming off a 47-0 loss last week at No. 7 Crawford.
“Crawford’s a really good team and they didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes,” Rio Vista Coach Kasey Black said. “Not having our quarterback healthy and not being able to use his legs, they took advantage of it. They suffocated him and us. On defense, we couldn’t really get them off the field. We got them in a couple third-and-longs and they made plays on us.”
Rio Vista entered last week’s game at Crawford with a big question mark at quarterback as starter Taylor Pritchett was dealing with an injury. Black said he gave it a go last week but he was so limited that they pulled him early. Then the Eagles suffered another couple of key injuries in last week’s loss, making the task this week a bit more challenging.
“We’ve got a couple guys banged up,” Black said. “We wish we had the team that we played Bosqueville with. We just don’t have those kids near full strength right now. Hunter Carpenter, Mason Findley, Taylor Pritchett — we’ve got a lot of bumps and bruises. This week, we did some stuff different for preparations. We’ve been doing a bunch of treatment and trying to get them healthy enough to give Tolar a game. Our kids are going to play, they’re just not healthy. But it’s that time of the year.”
Black said he expects Pritchett will be able to play this week, it’s just a matter of how limited he will be.
With Rio Vista sitting at 6-2 overall and 2-2 in district, Black said this week’s game against Tolar (2-5, 2-1) is huge.
“It’s every bit as big as our Bosqueville game, probably bigger because this one basically puts us in [the playoffs],” he said. “... I guess you could say it’s probably the biggest game since, what, 2003? Rio Vista did go to the playoffs three years ago at 4-6, but honestly, for the year we’re having and the success we’ve had, it’s probably the biggest game here in a long time.”
The Eagles are 0-2 against the Rattlers in their last two meetings. Tolar beat Rio Vista 36-7 last season and 55-20 in 2018. But Black said he likes how the two teams match up this season.
“Tolar’s had our number but Tolar right now is young,” Black said. “We’ve got quite a bit more seniors than they do but we’ve got a bunch of young kids as well. You look at our teams and I feel like we’re a lot alike. We run the same type plays on offense and run the same defense. I feel like we match up well. Their record does them no justice because they’ve played some really good people pre-district so you can’t look at that at all. You watch them on film and it’s almost like you are watching us.”
For a number of reasons, Black said one of the biggest keys to success this week will be up front, with communication from Pritchett to the offensive line, identifying Tolar’s defensive alignment and where pressure might be coming from.
“They run a 3-3 stack on defense, so you’ve got to identify where they’re coming from and what they’re doing with those guys,” Black said. “So it starts with our guys up front. Then it’s Taylor getting us in the correct play. We’ve got some built-in pre-snap stuff, so if he sees that we’re running a play, let’s say to those guys that are blitzing, that’s not a good play. So he’s got to be able to get us out of that. That’s what we’ve talked to him all week about, identify where they’re coming from and getting us in the right play or make the right decision.”
After struggling to get off the field defensively on third down last week, Black said that will be another big key this week, forcing Tolar into punts when the Rattlers are in third-down situations.
District 7-2A DI outlook: Crawford and Bosqueville are both 3-0 and they play each other this week. Tolar is third at 2-1 with Rio Vista and Hamilton tied for fourth at 2-2. Itasca is 0-3 and Valley Mills is 0-4.