Riverside's Marcus Reed catches a touchdown in front of St. Albans' Taylor Clark.
Riverside showed off its big-play capability Friday night.William Jackson returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in the opening half and added a 47-yard interception return for a score in the second half to spark the host Warriors past St. Albans 44-27 in a mutual season opener.A crowd of about 1,200 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup at Quincy.Jackson's 47-yard interception return began a stretch of three unanswered TDs by Riverside in the third quarter that turned the Warriors' 23-13 halftime lead into a comfortable 44-13 advantage by the time the binge was over."When he turns a corner,'' said Riverside coach Ralph Hensley, "if you're not there, he'll outrun you. I think his best years are ahead of him.''After a punt by SA following Jackson's pick six, Riverside needed just three plays to score again as senior quarterback Trevor Rumberg dashed 35 yards up the middle for a score.The Warriors' defense forced another punt by the Red Dragons and four plays later, Rumberg found senior wide receiver Marcus Reed for a 27-yard TD, the pair's second of the game. The two hooked up in the first quarter on a 29-yarder in which Reed soared above the defender to wrest the ball away and come down with it while on his back in the end zone."We were better than the scrimmage at the [MSAC] Grid-o-rama,'' said the 5-foot-5, 163-pound Jackson, who finished with 170 total yards (111 return yards and 59 rushing on five carries)."That's what our main goal was - to work hard. We're practicing hard. I feel like we have more [explosive players] than we did last year. We don't have to rely on one person.''Rumberg finished with 104 yards passing and two TDs with no interceptions and added 41 yards on 10 carries and two more scores. Reed had two catches for 56 yards with two TDs. Senior tailback Aaron Halstead gained 90 yards on seven carries to spearhead a ground attack that chewed up 313 yards.
This year, Riverside has two basketball players (Reed and senior defensive back Dameria Lane), a track sprinter (Jackson) and a wrestler (senior fullback Zach Cook) in the starting lineup to add athleticism across the board, which has been missing in recent years. Cook added 40 yards rushing."They made some good catches and some nice tackles back in the secondary,'' said Hensley of Reed and Lane. "I don't think we've had some to come out and really help us like that. We just hope we can stay healthy and keep improving.''The Red Dragons showed some positive signs in trying to learn first-year coach Steve Stoffel Jr.'s new spread offense.SA matched Riverside score for score in the first quarter before the game got out of hand in the second half. The teams were knotted at 14-all after Red Dragons junior quarterback Taylor Clark hit junior tight end Dakota Kelly with a 46-yard TD pass with 1:28 left in the period."We gave up too many big plays,'' said Stoffel, who was without starting senior linebacker Kevin Cantley, who earned AAA all-state second-team honors after last season, and senior kicker-safety Gavin Smith.
"We did a lot of good things early. We competed for 21/2 quarters. We took some chances and gave them points.''SA senior running back Drew Kirby ground out 104 yards on 21 carries, and Clark finished 11-of-20 with 165 yards with a TD, but threw three picks. Red Dragons sophomore backup quarterback Noah Reed connected with freshman wideout Jacob Grigsby for a 77-yard run-and-catch in the final period."We're going to work at it and see if we can get better,'' Stoffel said. "I think we can.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org