|Riley working on All-State status in three sports this season|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Sept. 20, 2005 - When the Sulphur Springs Wildcats were putting in a few offensive wrinkles during spring training in May, head coach Brad Turner said he could see Josh Riley being an All-State player in three sports.
There's one down and another appears to be taking shape.
Riley, an All-State second baseman in baseball, is currently leading the state in receptions as a slot receiver for the Wildcats. The senior also plays point guard in basketball.
According to THSCA.com, Riley's 38 receptions is the best in the state in all classifications. His 465 yards and five TDs ranks him in the top five in those categories.
"We've got a lot of good offensive players, but I would have to say right now that Josh is the centerpiece of the offense because he can do so many things," Turner said. "He can catch the ball, we can move him to the backfield and he can run the ball, and he can throw it if we need him to.
"Josh is just a great athlete — he's a good basketball player, he's a great baseball player. He'd be a good trackster. He can do anything he wants to do; he's just that good of an athlete."
He's also proved his toughness by continually going across the middle, catching the ball and taking a hit.
He had two pivotal middle-of-the-field receptions in the comeback against W.T. White, and his 17 receptions against Mesquite Poteet are a school record. He is on pace to break the school's single-season marks in receptions, yardage and touchdowns.
"His play-making ability is exceptional. Catching 17 passes against Poteet just tells you what kind of a player he is — you don't see that very much," Turner said. "He's certainly the go-to guy."
Along with receiving, Riley also returns punts and kickoffs, holds for extra points, and coaches have tinkered in practice with him playing secondary.
Riley came up through the ranks as a quarterback, and started several games there last year, before the conversion to receiver began to take shape.
"It was hard at first, because I was used to being in the backfield," said Riley. "But, now that I get to touch the ball so much, it's made it easier. At quarterback, you have to know all the positions on the field and all the routes, so that helps at receiver."
It also helps that he catches just about everything thrown his direction.
"He runs great routes, and he has a good understanding. He's played quarterback, so he has a great grasp of what we're doing," Turner said. "He's a perfect inside receiver."
Riley is averaging almost 10 catches and 115 yards receiving per game, but fans may not have seen his best yet. His father, Clifton Riley, was a two-year starting linebacker, and his uncle, Jerry Riley, was a prominent receiver at SSHS. They let Josh know that times may have changed, but that Mount Pleasant is still the team to beat.
"My dad and my uncle, especially Mount Pleasant week, always seem to get my hyped up for that game," he said.
Despite his natural affinity for football, it is baseball which will likely take Riley to college. He was voted All-State last year as a junior by the coaches association and the state's sportswriters.
Though he's neck-deep in just about all sports, baseball is a year-round love.
"Even after football practice today, I'll go over to the baseball field and throw and hit and try to stay in practice," he said. "I still love football and basketball, too."
Notes: While Riley has been a constant at receiver, the other slots keep changing. Junior Tyler Rhoades, who is second on the team with 20 receptions, was diagnosed with a fractured fibula he suffered after making a key 18-yard reception on fourth down to keep the Wildcats' final scoring drive alive against W.T. White. He will be out at least two weeks and will be replaced in the starting lineup by senior Josh Harrington, who is seeing his first action this season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
Junior cornerback Ryan Gibson is also out with an injury to his collar bone. He will likely be replaced by Chad Rocker. Junior outside linebacker Clay Wilks has been cleared after sitting out last game following a concussion against Poteet.