Central's Rivera set to take reigns

PHOTOS BY ALICE MARY HERDEN

The role of starting quarterback has proved a tenuous position at Central High the past few years. Injuries have often prevented the Bears from achieving any kind of stability.

"Last year, we struggled offensively," said Central head coach Chris Sands, whose team went 2-8 last year, his first at the helm. "We couldn't find that guy under center who could throw and run."

Enter Sebastian Rivera this spring. Or more accurately, re-enter, as the team's new starting signal caller.

For the 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore, this isn't his first go-round with the Bears. As a freshman in 2013 he appeared in six varsity games and even had a few starts, completing 11-of-27 passes for 51 yards with an interception.

Then he moved to Springstead's zone and spent this past season with the Eagles, playing on varsity but never recording a start, either at quarterback or his defensive positions of safety and outside linebacker.

It was a frustrating situation for Rivera, who returned to Central after moving back into that zone.

"It's home," Rivera said of playing for the Bears. "I'm happy with the coach. Me and him have a good relationship, so it's better."

Now, Rivera said, he's back with his family at Central. Things have changed with Sands in charge. Two victories represent a step in the right direction for the Bears, who had one win on the field the previous three seasons combined.

Rivera hopes to play a key role in maintaining the upward trend.

"I want to come back and destroy every time in our path," Rivera said. "I had to get used to (the offense) the first couple of days of practice. But now I've got it down."

He believes he's the duel threat Sands seeks, able to move around in the pocket while passing accurately.

"He's smart with the ball," Sands said. "He's not going to turn the ball over and he gets the ball to the right place. That's what we're looking for."

Rivera echoes Sands' optimistic approach to next season, but he has more far-ranging goals. He wants to go to college.

To that end, he has worked not only on the field but off, improving his grades.

"Colleges aren't just looking for great athletes, they want someone who does great in schoolwork, too," Rivera said. "My goal is to go to a university."

He'll have a chance to start impressing college coaches on May 22, when the Bears host St. Petersburg Catholic for a spring classic starting at 7 p.m. He's looking forward to the road ahead.

"I want to thank Coach Sands for giving me this opportunity to do good things," Rivera said, "and to progress with football."

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