One of the most common phrases in sports is that it’s hard to beat a team twice in a row.
So is it impossible to beat them five times in a row?
That’s what No. 1 Riverside aims to do at 7 p.m. Friday at Michael Lupin Field when it lines up against a familiar foe in No. 9 Newman for the second time this year, this time in the Division III quarterfinals.
The Rebels (9-1) seek to extend their winning streak to five against their District 9-2A rivals, and the Greenies (8-2) are determined to snap it.
“Riverside came in beat us last year. They beat us this year, and we want to get a win against these guys,” said quarterback Miles Lapeyre, who is 265 passing yards shy of surpassing Peyton Manning’s single-season passing yardage record at Newman. “There’s no doubt our team is going to rally. Our team is sick of losing to them.”
Much has changed for Newman since the teams’ last meeting on Oct. 9. After losing to Riverside and St. Charles in consecutive weeks, Newman has stockpiled four straight wins.
The Greenies have scored 40 points or more three times during that span while holding their opponents to 16.5 points per game. The improvement has come in the running game and defense, as the team began to figure out its identity.
“Playing those two games made us better,” Newman coach Nelson Stewart said. “You see all the cracks in the armor. We self-evaluated, and since then, we’ve found ourselves. We’re rising up. We’re a much better football team, and Riverside will get our best.”
“We’re a different team,” Lapeyre said. “We’ve matured. This feels like a different game.”
That sentiment was echoed by Riverside, which is coming off its second-most lopsided victory of the season in a 55-8 rout of Northlake Christian.
The Rebels scored eight times in their first eight possessions and didn’t allow Northlake a first down until midway through the second quarter.
Yet the Riverside coach Bill Stubbs remains adamant his team still hasn’t played its best football.
“We played well. We did a lot of really good things, but we need to build off that,” he said. “We made a lot of things happen. We forced the issue, and we have the ability to continue to do that.”
Riverside players are well aware of their recent success against Newman, but aren’t fazed by it. They’ve adopted the same mentality as their coach — it’s the playoffs, it’s a new season, and there’s finality to each week.
Cognizant of how well Newman has played of late, the Rebels have maintained their focus on improving their own team, which they believe is the key to advancing.
“We don’t worry about the past. Everybody’s trying to survive for next Friday,” tackle Freddie Means said. “We need be the more physical team on the field, play our game and focus, and we’ll be good.”