Hawks beat Cardinals for first win
By Byron Painter
Riverton football coach Josh Lee had never lost three games in a row before last week, and he was in no hurry to have his first four-game losing skid either.
His Hawks scored 14 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 21-14 win Friday over the visiting Pleasant Plains Cardinals in a Sangamo Conference tilt.
The Cardinals (1-3, 0-3) had the ball for almost 2/3 of the first half, but only managed a 7-7 tie.
“That has been our story,” said Cardinal coach Joe Oller. “Every time we would get something going, we would always do something to disrupt it, and that is nobody’s fault
but our own.”
The opening Plains drive ended in a punt, and it also ended the night of tight end Cale George, who came down awkwardly on his right ankle after unsuccessfully leaping
for a Max McElfresh pass. He had to be helped off the field, and Oller admitted after the game “it does not look good.” He was right, as George has a broken tibia.
The Hawks punted too, then RHS senior Alex Behrens ended the next PP drive with an interception on third-and-5.
Riverton took over at the Plains 20, and Will Schneider gained 12 on second down. A penalty moved Lee’s bunch back five, then Jacob Morrison scampered 12 yards of his
own to get Riverton to the 2. Two plays later, Schneider scored from the 1 on a bootleg, and Spencer Pulliam’s PAT made it 7-0 home team with 3:48 left in the opening
The next drive for each team ended around midfield, then Plains took over at its 35. The Cardinals were backed up because of a penalty, facing a first-and-23, and after two
incomplete passes, McElfresh found Ben Buckles for 16 yards and Taylor Ray for 11 more for a first down.
McElfresh then connected with Ray again for 22 yards to get Plains to the Hawk 8, and Julian Bell scored from the 1 on third-and-goal.
Adam Turley nailed the PAT to knot the score at 7 with 7:44 left in the half.
Zach Cronister intercepted Schneider with just over two minutes left; the Cardinals marched to the Hawk 21. Two incomplete passes (the second of which was forced by a
hard-charging Richard Rexroat, who nailed McElfresh just as he was releasing the ball) left Plains with a field goal attempt of 37 yards, but a bad snap led to a turnover on
Riverton went 70 yards in five plays to open the second half, Schneider scampering 21 on the first play and Spencer Woodward, with some nifty cutback running, raced 46
yards to move RHS to the 1.
After a no-gainer on first down, Schneider waltzed in untouched for a score at the 9:29 mark.
Pulliam’s kick made it 14-7.
“I was pretty confident we could move the ball in the second half,” said Lee, whose team is 1-3 (1-2). “Scoring on that first drive was huge.”
Four straight punts left the Hawks with the ball at their own 5 with 9:47 remaining in the game.
Morrison ran for 30 on first down, and Schneider added 21 more on the next play to get the Hawks out of the shadow of their end zone.
Riverton stalled, and Lee called for a fake with the Hawks sitting at the Plains 44.
He put the play in for last year’s playoff game at Carthage, but had not been able to use it.
Pulliam started running upfield, then he shoveled the ball to Zach Yoggerst, who beat a Plains defender to the corner and then sprinted down the sideline for a 44-yard TD
at the 6:34 mark.
Pulliam kicked the PAT for a 21-7 Riverton lead.
“We were screaming fake punt,” said Oller, “but our outside guys were looking inside.”
That was just another frustrating example cited by Oller about the Cardinals not staying with ‘assigment football.’ The first RHS TD in the second half came on another
miscue like that, because a player was in the wrong spot and did not stay with his assignment, he said.
“We did not respond very well to adversity,” said Oller. “We have not done that yet.”
Plains lost a huge 71-yard return from Matt Hughes after the touchdown because of an illegal block in the back penalty, which instead led to them starting on their own 5.
They went three-and-out.
The Cardinals scored on a 60-yard TD pass from McElfresh to Buckles with 51.3 seconds remaining. Buckles won a jump ball with a Riverton defender around the 15, and
he then ran in. Turley connected on the PAT, but Behrens recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Hawks ran out the clock.
McElfresh threw for 227 yards (16-for-33) and connected with six receivers, but the Cardinals only ran for 31 yards on 30 tries.
“This game reminded me of Athens,” said Oller, who had preached to his team all week that the Hawks were better than an 0-3 team. “We had to abandon our running
game because we were not getting off the football and we were not blocking.
“Until we do what we are supposed to do, we are going to struggle.”
“We wanted them to get to the point they had to throw the ball,” said Lee, whose squad racked up six sacks, two from Woodward (who also had two pass breakups).
Morrison finished with 83 yards rushing, 10 more than Schneider, who was 3-for-8 passing for 37 yards. Woodward added 43.
Behrens and Jake Bergae both had seven tackles, while Woodward added six.
Riverton heads to Auburn next week, and the Cardinals get Sangamon Valley at their place.
Issue Date: Sept. 23, 2010