Riverside High School’s football team was hoping to not only win its season opener, but also nab the first victory for first-year coach Alex Daugherty.
Daugherty and the Warriors will have to wait at least another week. Woodrow Wilson’s defense clamped down for most of the game on its way to a 21-6 win over Riverside.
“I take full responsibility for this,” Daugherty said. “It’s the first game of the season and you can expect things like this to happen. It’s a long season and we won’t give up on these kids. We have to better ourselves because of this and get it fixed.
“There are things I learn every single day,” he added. “I’m a young guy and first-year head coach. We have to handle adversity well and teach these kids to come back and respond when things get tough.”
Riverside only had 36 total yards of offense and two first downs in the first half, one on a defensive penalty, and a fake punt. Woodrow Wilson held Warrior standout Caden Easterling to just 26 yards on 14 carries.
“Our defense did really great,” Woodrow Wilson coach Chad Sarrett said. “Our linebackers, secondary, and guys up front played real tough. For the past two years, we haven’t played real good defense and that is something we hung our hat on this offseason.”
There was a big momentum swing late in the first half in a still-scoreless game after Riverside had its best chance to score, taking over at the Woodrow 28-yard line with 4:01 left in the half. However, a false start and two sacks by the Flying Eagle defense drove the Warriors all the way back to the 38-yard line, forcing Riverside to punt.
Woodrow took over at its own 20-yard line with just 1:19 to play before halftime, and the Flying Eagles finally put together a good drive, marching 66 yards. Quarterback Peyton Shehan completed a 19-yard and 6-yard pass to Zach Weaver, and converted a third down with a 9-yard run to set up Woodrow with a first and 10 at the Riverside 47-yard line with 19.3 seconds to play.
Shehan then hooked up with Nicholaus Wickline for a 28-yard gain and on the final play of the first half, Joseph Wells kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Flying Eagles a 3-0 lead at halftime.
“That was a game-changer,” Sarrett said. “We get the stop and took it right down the field. For our kicker [Wells] to bust that through there was huge. Our kids really worked hard and they deserve it.”
Riverside’s offense continued to struggle. It took the opening possession at the 20-yard line, but lost it all in two plays, resulting in a Woodrow safety and 5-0 lead with 11:45 left in the third quarter. The Warriors fumbled on the first play, losing 12 yards and leading to a quarterback change. The Flying Eagles’ Avante Burnett sacked Javonte Elzy in the end zone for the defensive score.
On the next Riverside offensive possession, Kain Ford returned at quarterback and was intercepted on his first pass by Shehan, setting up Woodrow with great field position deep in Warrior territory. It only took the Flying Eagles one play to cash in with Lamont Lee rumbling 16 yards for a touchdown, and the extra point gave Woodrow a 12-0 lead with 9:21 left in the third quarter.
Later in the third quarter, Riverside took over at its own 8-yard line, was sacked back at the 2, and lost a fumble on the next play at the 1. The Flying Eagles capitalized again on a Shehan 1-yard plunge on fourth down and took an 18-0 lead with 2:23 left.
The Warriors finally were able to get some offense, completing their first pass of the game with 1:35 left in the third quarter. Later on the drive, Elzy scampered 55 yards for a touchdown to cut the Woodrow lead to 18-6 with 31.4 remaining.
Elzy finished with 110 yards on 10 carries for Riverside but the Warriors were only able to gain six first downs on offense, including four in the fourth quarter.
“Kain [Ford] was real beat up,” Daugherty said. “He went down with a knee injury and we thought he would be gone for the day. Then he got his ribs hurt. We went with Elzy and he did a great job. He is an athletic kid.”