- Last Updated on Friday, 05 July 2013 11:07
- Published on Wednesday, 01 July 2009 23:06
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As the old adage goes, “If you build they will come.” Stafford native and Colonial Beach resident Dennis Cornell’s latest football venture, the Northern Neck Rivermen, has attracted men from arena football to college football. Each athlete seeks a path or return to the days of old where fans complimented by teammates cheered their names at the end of a play.
Why would a perfectly healthy athlete sacrifice his body for the sake of football glory in a hostile environment, filled with violent collisions, while chasing the dream of one day playing for a professional football team? After coaching three semi-professional football teams in the last 10 years, Stafford graduate and Rivermen head football coach Dennis Corwell may be closer to the truth in his latest football franchise.
“Eighty percent of these men are playing because they love the game,” Cornwell said. “They want an opportunity to put the uniform back on again, and fulfill the team concept.”
While the roster for the Rivermen is constantly changing with new recruits coming in every week, the desire to make an impact on the Regional American Football League is first and foremost. Most recently, the Rivermen made their preseason debut against the Richmond Ravens, losing 20-7.
Like all new teams, chemistry combined with conditioning will ultimately play a role in whether the team will eventually win.
The team’s quarterback, Adweala Dawes, has a history with Cornwell. He played for Cornwell’s Winchester team before transitioning to the arena football league in San Angelo, Texas, to play for the Texas Express and Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania Outlaws.
Offensively, the team will rely on King George High School grad Aaron Lewis at running back. Although his high school days ended in 1994, his speed is still intact and he has several years of semi-pro football to ad to his athletic resume.
A huge threat that many teams may overlook is former All-District standout Jermaine Weldon. During his high school years, Weldon dominated opposing teams with his ability to get down field and Hail Mary spiral bombs for game winning touchdowns.
“Jermaine has a great attitude, and he’s a just an all around tremendous athlete,” Cornwell said.
At six foot three, Weldon is a triple threat. He will play cornerback on defense, wide receiver on offense and return kick returns on special teams.
“If you get the ball within his reach, he will catch it,” Cornwell said refering to Weldon’s game-breaking ability to catch balls over rival defenders.
The team’s kicker/punter, Trey Hamlet, can accurately kick field goals within 50 plus yards. Using Hamlet's kicking as a hidden intangible could help the Rivermen win close games as the season continues to unfold. Newman was a standout kicker for Carson Newman University.
Strong safety and linebacker Berlyn Thomas will anchor the Rivermen’s three-three-five stack defense. Thomas played for the University of North Carolina, arena football and he once tried out for the Miami Dolphins.
Currently the Rivermen have 28 players on the roster.
The team’s mantra, “Football is life” says it all. The true testament to the Rivermen’s intestinal fortitude is their ability to play together as a team.
“There are a lot of guys that standout individually,” Cornwell said. “The team concept is what we’re going after, because no matter how good somebody is, we can’t do this without everybody around us.”
The Rivermen will travel to Virginia Beach on July 11, to play the Virginia Thunder. On July 18, the Rivermen will host the Prince William Monarchs; game time is 7:30 p.m. For information about the Rivermen, go to http://www.eteamz.com/NNRivermen/.
Leonard M. Banks, Sports Editor