Nicholson prefers the old school mentality
By Rick Pedone
When it comes to playing football, Osceola High linebacker Riley Nicholson prefers prefers old school.
“I’m not too crazy about all these spread offenses,” Nicholson, a 6-1, 220-pound junior, said. “I like it better when they line up in a normal set with two backs in the backfield and come at you.”
Nicholson and teammates Mikeice Adams and Shayvai Gordon, the Kowboys’ respected linebacking corps, did a fair job of stopping most offenses this season whether they ran spread, pro-set or any combination of those packages. The Kowboys yielded 11.5 points and 174 yards per game.
No matter what formation an opponent used, it learned pretty quickly that running against the Kowboys was hard work. Opponents gained just under 53 yards per game rushing on average.
Nicholson did his share by making 100 tackles, 14 behind the line of scrimmage, and causing six fumbles.
He shares the Osceola News-Gazette Defensive Football Player of the Year honors with Adams and Harmony’s Colton Keene.
Nicholson, who plays Sam, or strong side linebacker, usually is in the middle of things whenever an opponent tries to run.
He and safety Dominic Lee punctuated the Kowboys’ 19-14 win against Tampa Sickles in the regional championship game by stopping running back Ray Ray McCloud III cold on a fourth-and-1 with 2:13 to play.
“Riley’s a natural football player. He knows where the ball is going, and he’s pretty good at stopping it,” Kowboys defensive coordinator Scott Spencer said.
Although the Kowboys came up one frustrating loss short of the Class 7A state championship contest, Nicholson thought both he and the team had a good season.
“We just made too many mistakes (at Niceville in the state semifinal), mental and physical. I’m not sure why that happened,” he said. “For me, I thought I had my best season. I felt like I was pretty happy with it.”
Nicholson’s sophomore year, in 2012, at OHS was abbreviated by a midseason shoulder injury, one that he is fully recovered from.
Nicholson, who transferred from Harmony after his freshman year, is receiving interest from Duke, Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern among others, and he said he would like to make a decision about his future before his senior year.
“Yeah, I’d like to get it taken care of before next season, but we’ll see how it works out,” he said.
Nicholson has been all about football, except for a fling with baseball when he was very young.
He is competing for the Kowboys weightlifting team after placing third in the state at 219 pounds last year.
He twice was selected to national All-America youth football games when he was in elementary school, which took him to Texas.
“I remember a little bit about those, not a whole lot,” he said.
He knows, for sure, that his future is on the defensive side of the ball.
“I did both for a while, but I’m not too crazy about running it that much. I’d rather play linebacker. I think that’s what I’m best at,” he said.
The good news for the Kowboys is that he will be doing that for one more season.
Shavai Gordon, Derek Rivers, T.J. Kelley, Stephon Brown, Devon Clarke, Dominic Lee, Carlos Becker and Treyvon Simmons all are lettermen who will return to what should be a strong OHS defense next year.
“We’ve got some guys coming back. We should be pretty good,” he said.