According to an old Sicilian proverb, revenge is a dish best served cold.
If any vengeance gets ladled out by Eastside in Norton tonight, a quarterback on a hot streak will probably be playing head waiter.
Eastside’s Caleb Riner leads the Spartans (3-2, 1-0) into Lawson-Fitchko Stadium for a Cumberland District clash with J.I. Burton (2-3, 1-0).
The two teams last met in the second round of the 2012 playoffs. The Raiders ran off with it, 49-28, at Carl Smith Stadium.
“You’ve just got to get your kids prepared to fight each little battle of the war,” said Eastside coach Matt Hamilton, whose chief of fensive weapon isn’t exactly top secret.
Last week, Riner set two school records as he passed for 338 yards and five touchdowns in a 46-14 win over Thomas Walker.
Riner, a fourth-year starter who passed the 3,000-yard career passing mark last week, is the only starting quarterback Eastside has ever had.
This hardly diminishes his legacy.
“The kind of numbers he’s been putting up are legitimate numbers for any quarterback,” said Hamilton.
Riner has passed for 2,378 yards and 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions this season. Kobe Lawson (31-546, 3 TDs) leads the receiving corps with double the catches and nearly double the yardage of any other Spartans pass-catcher.
The alternative targets have also earned respect. Justin Banks (15-281, 2 TDs), Ben Yates (15-272, 3 TDs) and J.D. Slone (15-220, 4 TDs) are also solid athletes.
“I think the Riner kid is a good quality player. From what I understand he is an even better young man. He appears to play the game the right way. I’m a fan of his,” said J.I. Burton coach Jimbo Adams, whose team beat Twin Springs 41-0 last week.
The young Raiders run a similar offense but are more rushing-oriented than Eastside. Slotbacks Kelly Thompson (48-359, 5 TDs) and Tyler Justiniano (28-182, 1 TD) lead the charge.
Compared to Riner, Burton freshman QB Tra Adams is a pup in training. Be that as it may, he has passed for 443 yards and three scores with Cobye Robbins and Thompson leading the receivers.
“They don’t throw it as much as we do, but they do throw it,” Hamilton observed. “I would definitely pack a lunch if I were coming to this game. It may take a while.”
Last week the Raiders racked up 374 yards total offense. That encouraged Adams.
What encouraged him even more was holding the Titans to 174 yards total offense while keeping them out of the end zone.
“Our goal every week is to hold our opponent under 200 yards and to exceed 300 ourselves. That’s been a measuring stick for us for a long, long time,” Adams said.
“That’s a start. That’s getting back to our domain. We’re so inexperienced in a lot of places and there are places we’re not good at. But we are steadily improving,” he said.
Elsewhere in the region, star-crossed Gate City (1-4) looks to change its luck when it travels to Lebanon (2-2) for a non-district tilt.
Lee High (3-1) looks to get back in the saddle at Grayson County (2-2) and Clintwood (3-1, 2-0) goes to Castlewood (1-4, 1-2) for a Cumberland battle of the Woods.
Harlan (0-5) visits Rye Cove (0-4), Hurley (2-3) takes the long and winding road to Thomas Walker (1-4) and Twin Springs (1-4) takes the wagon train to Haysi (4-0).