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Hurricane edges Riverside in MSAC Grid-o-rama

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail
Riverside’s Mark Scites carries the ball for a big gain against Hurricane during the MSAC Grid-o-rama Saturday.

Saturday afternoon’s matchup in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-o-rama at University of Charleston Stadium was a perfect opportunity for Riverside and Hurricane to get a good look at how effective their biggest strengths can be against a quality opponent.

With a number of talented players remaining in the fold for the 2017 season, the Riverside offense and Hurricane defense are both expected to be the strengths of the two teams. After a while of just going up against their own teammates in practice this preseason, the two coaching staffs were excited to see them handle themselves against the type of teams they’ll need to play well against in order to have good seasons.

“This was a really good experience we needed before we get the season started,” Riverside coach Zach Davis said. “We expect our offense to be good, they do a great job with their defense. It was good to see them go at it today and I think I was really pleased with what I saw from our guys for the most part.”

With Hurricane’s season opener against Winfield and Riverside’s first game against Woodrow Wilson now just a matter of days away, both teams were able to find several positives from the scrimmage. The Redskins and Warriors went back and forth early before Hurricane’s field goal with 9 minutes to play helped to lift it to a 17-14 victory.

But the score wasn’t the thing that mattered most in a contest like this.

“We made some mistakes, and we’ll learn more from it when we look at it on film,” Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor said. “This was a tough game, and it was really what we needed. It was a good experience for our guys.”

Saturday’s scrimmage was the toughest test of the preseason for Taylor’s squad. They knew they needed a scrimmage like this — both to give their defense reps against a talented offense as well as to get another look at their own offense that is still searching for consistency and is going through a battle at quarterback as Hurricane looks to build on last year’s Class AAA playoff quarterfinal appearance.

“A lot of today was about scheme more than anything,” Taylor said. “We’ve been preaching effort. It’s about setting the tone with that and moving into the season with some momentum.

“Our defense brings a lot back and today we tried some different combinations because you can do that in games like this. We want to use these games to see who can make plays when we get back out there on Friday.”

Meanwhile, Riverside knows this can be a pivotal season for the Warriors as Davis enters his third year as the coach.

Led by the offense, which returns 10 starters, including quarterback Mark Scites, Riverside believes it is on the verge of competing for a playoff spot this season — a big contrast from the program that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007 and won just three games combined in the three seasons before Davis took over in 2015.

“It’s a huge credit to our young men and the culture we have in this football program now,” Davis said. “Our motto is to win the day, and we always want to be better tomorrow than we were today. We’ve seen some big improvements and we still have nowhere to go but up.”

In Saturday’s other Grid-o-rama matchups, Spring Valley opened the day with a 35-0 win against Woodrow Wilson and Cabell Midland jumped ahead early and rolled to a 42-7 win against George Washington. Capital won the final scrimmage of the day, beating Ripley 32-13.

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