Versatile Rivers big key for Sherando defense

Dylan Rivers led a stout Sherando defense all season. The junior linebacker was the Region 4A West Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – When asked if there was a play from Dylan Rivers’ season that stood out the most, both Rivers and Sherando football coach Bill Hall said the same thing – an 80-yard punt against Millbrook.

Rivers, who has already verbally committed to play at Penn State University, can do a little bit of everything on offense and defense — and he can punt if needed.

“That was like a snapshot of his season,” Hall said. “He’s great at linebacker. He’s a great whatever you want to call him on offense. He’s a tight end, he’s a split end, he’s a quarterback. Whatever you want to call him, he’s all those things on offense, but the fact that he can take a ball and punt it 80 yards — that’s a snap shot of Dylan. He can do anything you want him to.”

Rivers, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, made a big impact on defense, even if it wasn’t always noticeable to the average fan.

Rivers finished the season with 43 tackles and three interceptions, but most teams ran away from him, which allowed other players to make tackles.

“It’s not fair to watch Dylan based off of numbers because what he does for us is something you can’t measure through numbers. He cuts the field in half for us on defense,” Hall said. “You think about the games that we played versus some quality opponents. We held, you name the running back, and we held all those people under 100. That was because they were playing on a constructed field, and we have a very good defense, but he’s a huge cog in that defense.”

Rivers said it does get frustrating at times that teams run away from him, but he knows it’s just part of the game. Even though teams ran away from him, Rivers still made plenty of big plays, including a game-sealing interception early in the season against Martinsburg, and 16 tackles for loss.

The 6-foot-3 225-pound junior said he was happy with his season, but he’s already looking forward to next year and working to get better.

“I definitely want to improve for next year,” Rivers said. “…It’s nice to get back into it and get on with the offseason and get back into next season fro spring ball.”

One thing Rivers won’t have to worry about is where he will play in college. The day after Sherando’s season came to an end Rivers verbally committed to Penn State. Rivers had 14 scholarship offers to choose from.

“It’s nice that I don’t have to call any more coaches,” Rivers said. “I can just call the Penn State coaches every once in a while. I only have to focus on one school. So there’s a lot of stress that came off of my shoulders.”

Rivers was on the varsity team as a freshman, and had a good role model to look up to in George Aston, who now plays at fullback for the University of Pittsburgh.

“You definitely learn a lot going back to the 2103 team. You learn from mostly Reid (Entsminger) and George (Aston) that hard work pays off,” Rivers said. “Look at George – he could move and he was huge. He’s playing college football right now. He’s starting as a freshman. You definitely learn a lot when guys like that come through.”

Hall said that part of Rivers’ biggest strengths are his aggressiveness on the field and the way he’s always in attack mode.

“Where he stands out is his physicality and downhill nature. He gets a read, makes a decision and pulls the trigger,” Hall said. “He goes and whatever is in the way he can blow that up, which is easier said than done.”

Rivers was the All-Conference 21 West Defensive Player of the Year, and the Region 4A West Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Rivers also had a big year on offense, where he was able to do a little bit of everything. He caught 26 passes for 614 yards, 23.6 yards a catch, and had six touchdowns. He had 43 carries for 151 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He also ran some out of Sherando’s Wildcat formation and even completed one pass.

Hall said another of Rivers’ strengths is that he stays humble and is always looking to better himself.

Rivers said the biggest things he wants to improve on for next year is his speed and his lateral movement.

The Warriors finished 9-2 on the season, losing in the second round of the Group 4A playoffs to Woodgrove. Rivers said he’s excited for his senior year and seeing what the team can do.

“I think the freshman Jo Jo (Doleman), he’s going to do really well this year. I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Rivers said. “Cordell’s (Peterson) going to do well at tailback next year, and I just look forward to seeing what we have, 7 on 7’s are not that far off. It’s a couple months away, but it’s not that far.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or