River Ridge players stretch at the end of practice earlier this season.

Mike Collins said he knew it would be a challenge taking over at River Ridge, and the task will get no easier for the Knights on Friday.

Following an early-season bye week, River Ridge (0-2, 0-1) got its first taste of Region 6AAAAAA action last week in a 49-0 loss at Harrison. The Hoyas entered the game as the No. 5 team in Class AAAAAA, and the Knights’ task will get no easier as River Ridge hosts No. 7 Allatoona (1-1, 1-0).

“For us it’s still a process,” said Collins, in his first year at the Woodstock school after nine at Wheeler. “We want to be better this Friday than we were last Friday. We just ran up against a good team last week.”

Sophomore running back Amehre Morrison has been the focal point of the River Ridge offense so far this season with 174 yards on 39 carries and 49 yards on seven receptions. Senior quarterback Chase Begin was able to connect with a few receivers downfield in the Knights Week 1 loss to Etowah, but he was limited to 48 yards on 3-of-12 passing against Harrison.

Despite the struggles, Collins said he was optimistic about where the offense is at this point.

“I like how we’re developing with moving the ball on offense,” Collins said. “Against Harrison, we were showing signs of being able to chip away and sustain drives, and we showed some signs in both the scrimmage and against Etowah.”

Allatoona beat then-No. 8 Creekview 37-7 last week, doing so in impressive fashion by jumping out to a 27-0 halftime lead and totaling 388 yards of total offense.

River Ridge will need to be prepared for the Buccaneers’ multi-back rushing game, led by Alex Wilson, who finished with 114 carries on 16 carries against Creekview. The passing game also proved to be a threat, with Dante Marshall finishing the game 6-for-11 passing for 153 yards and one touchdown.

Collins said there will be a few game-time decisions on the injury front for River Ridge, adding that he was been pleased with the progress of the Knights’ linebacking corps. Juniors Hunter Deriso and Scotty Rutherford lead the team with 16 tackles each, while senior Kofi Reeves-Miller and junior Aidan Burton each have 12 tackles.

Maintaining morale through large defeats can be difficult, but Collins said he uses both the game film and practice film to show individual players where they have improved from week to week. Keeping the focus on the process of steady improvement is something Collins said will be the key to turning around a program.

“If you love what you do, then you better enjoy the process,” Collins said. “I’ll be honest with you, I feel like we’re ahead of the game here compared to where I’ve been at other places. I don’t know what that means, but I feel good about where we are and how our kids are working. I think our guys are giving max effort, so then it’s just up to us as coaches.”

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