Riverside promotes Antwan Nicholas to head football coach

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Riverside didn’t have to look far to find his next head football coach.

The generals filled the last vacancy as the region’s head coach this week when they named Antwan Nicholas as the man to replace OJ Small. It was the last open job in the Gateway Conference created when Small resigned after 11 seasons with the Generals.

Among the Gateway Conference schools, Mandarin (Toby Bullock), Ribault (Ram Pinckney), Wolfson (Step Durham) and Westside (Randy Randall) have also changed head coaches since last season.

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“I am very excited about the opportunity and the culture. For example, the environment with the kids is definitely great for them to embrace the team concept,” Nicholas said. “Today, a lot of kids are both focused on offers and … they get distracted by things on social media. The most important thing now is that they focus on team development, the environment, building relationships and supporting each other. And that’s something you definitely need on a championship team to make that run and make that push.

Nicholas is no stranger to the Riverside campus.

He played for school and then went to college with Edward Waters. Nicholas played for the Generals with his older brother Stephen, who later played in the NFL for seven years with the Falcons. He is currently the defensive quality control coach for the Buccaneers.

For Nicholas, 37, it’s his first job as a high school coach, but he’s Riverside to the core. He has been the program’s offensive coordinator since 2015 and has led one of the region’s most enduring programs of that span. Riverside is 61-19 in the last seven years.

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“You don’t necessarily do it for the money, but you definitely want to invest in the kids. The kids buy it, as do the parents and faculty. The support here, just the environment and culture is only there to enrich souls to grow and keep growing and playing.”

Small resigned last February to spend more time with his family after a hugely successful coaching career.

Riverside had just two losing seasons under Small, his first two in 2012–13. He put the Generals on track with a seven-win season in 2014 and made the playoffs for the first time the following year. Riverside’s first postseason trip under Small was also the first season Nicholas directed offense. He came to Riverside after serving as defense coordinator at Benedict College.

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Riverside was built small to deal with the ebb and flow of transfers in today’s high school football, a significant feat for a public school. Only Raines, under coaches Deran Wiley and Donovan Masline, has a longer current straight playoff streak than Riverside’s seven straight. The Vikings have reached the postseason for 12 straight seasons.

“First of all, glory to God for that, as well as a great, great staff, sporting director, sporting department. rector [Timothy] Feagins as well as clients [Scott] Schneider, who was here, as well as a few other Headmasters,” Nicholas said. “I’ve been great because I’ve supported, been there, supported the students and just built that kind of atmosphere and culture where we can be productive and thrive. You see the blueprint as far as it takes, just give up that opportunity and buy it. So, it was just great.”

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