BECKLEY — Woodrow Wilson opened the 2019 football season with high hopes of a possible playoff run. Friday night at Van Meter Stadium, Riverside put a big dent in those plans, at least for one week.
Riding playoff dreams of their own, the Warriors controlled the line of scrimmage and rolled to a dominating 38-8 win over the home-standing Flying Eagles.
“I thought we came out in the first two scrimmages not very good up front,” Riverside coach Alex Daugherty said. “We started focusing on that the last couple of weeks and it really showed tonight. I couldn’t ask for more and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
Riverside wasted no time taking control in the trenches, marching 77 yards in 16 plays for the game’s first score.
Senior tailback Caden Easterling, who would spend most of opening night running north and south, scored on a 10-yard run. Quarterback Javante Elzy added the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead that the Warriors would never relinquish.
“Big credit to my strength and conditioning coach and my assistants getting everybody ready,” Daugherty said. “It’s a hard job being an assistant making sure everything is fixed especially against a big line like [Woodrow’s] that comes right at you.”
The visitors kept the home team off balance with a mixture of Charlie Pierson inside and then going to Easterling outside.
“Again, I can’t say enough about our coaches, they do a bunch of different motions and movements, some jokers and counters. We really played well,” Daugherty said.
The one bright spot for Woodrow Wilson came in the third quarter when a fumble recovery gave the Flying Eagles the ball deep in Riverside territory. Quarterback Maddex McMillen made the Warriors pay when he hit Zach Weaver over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown. McMillen found Antwon Burnett for the 2-point conversion and the game was tied, 8-8 halfway through the third quarter.
It was all Riverside from that point.
“Our backs were against the wall there and previous teams would have sat back thinking we were in for a long game,” Daugherty said. “They came out and proved to me what type of players they are now and that they have that maturity we have focused on the past few years as coaches.”
The Warriors took just five plays to regain the lead. Keyed by a big 28-yard strike from Elzy to Pierson, Easterling scored again on a 17-yard jaunt.
“He is a phenomenal player. Everybody knows what Easterling brings to the table, it’s no secret,” Daugherty said. “I think [Woodrow] came in wanting to take that away, then we got some great stuff up the middle and it opened things up for him in the second half. That is part of our game plan and it worked in our favor.”
After a quick three-and-out, the backbreaker came on a beautiful fake inside from Elzy. With the entire defense diving inside, Elzy pulled the ball back and scampered 84 yards untouched with just seconds left on the third-quarter clock.
“Javante is starting to have trust in this offense,” Daugherty said. “It takes a while for kids to trust an offense that is new. It takes so many reps, but when it is done right, it is lethal.”
Easterling and Pierson would each score on 65-yard runs in the final quarter and freshman Andrew Baria added the game’s final score on a 1-yard plunge.
“They came up here and punched us in the mouth and were more physical than us,” Woodrow Wilson coach Street Sarrett said. “That is on me; I didn’t have them ready, I guess. So, tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. we are going to start over and get ready for Friday night.”