RIDGEWAY – After struggling out of the gate to the tune of four straight losses, the Riverside varsity football team appears to have found its stride as the Pirates made it back-to-back wins with a 33-12 victory over Ridgemont on Friday in Northwest Central Conference play.
“We didn’t play as good as we wanted to tonight, but a win is a win,” Riverside coach T.R. Doty said. “We will take this win and continue to build off it.”
The Pirates wasted little time putting points on the board as on the first play of their first possession, Riverside quarterback Bryce Hodge found a streaking Joe Coulson down the middle of the field for a 78-yard touchdown. With the extra point, RHS found itself ahead 7-0 with 7:34 left in the first quarter.
“That was a great play by Bryce and Joe. We thought we could exploit their defense deep, but to their credit, they kind of took that away from us,” Doty said. “It was great to get the early score because we’ve had that happen to us quite a bit. It was great to finally turn the tables and play with the lead.”
The score remained unchanged until Riverside’s first possession of the second quarter when the Pirates drove 60 yards in four plays, finding pay dirt on a 28-yard hookup from Hodge to Corey Vonderhuevel, who made an over-the-shoulder catch for the TD. The PAT was missed, however, keeping the score at 13-0 with 11:05 left in the first half.
Riverside went on to add another score just before halftime when Hodge threw his third touchdown of the game - a 6-yard strike to Chad Keith, capping off a nine-play, 72-yard drive.
Trailing 20-0 after 24 minutes of play, the Golden Gophers came out in the third quarter and kept the game interesting for a while as they turned a Riverside turnover into six points when on a fourth-and-four play from the Riverside 20, Tyler Tillman connected with Caleb Scott for the TD with 9:27 left to play in the stanza.
After the Ridgemont (1-5) defense forced a turnover on downs, it appeared all the momentum was on the side of the home team, that was until Golden Gopher running back Reese Overly coughed up the football, which was scooped up by Vonderhuevel and returned 37 yards for a TD.
“Corey made a great play with the scoop and score,” Doty said. “It kind of put the nail in the coffin there.”
With a comfortable 27-6 advantage, the Pirates went on to added another touchdown when Hodge scored on a 5-yard QB draw with 7:50 remaining in the game.
After Doty inserted his junior varsity players, Ridgemont was able to find the scoreboard one final time when Myles Hoffman busted off a 43-yard TD run.
Offensively for Riverside, Hodge finished the game 13 of 24 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Also for RHS, Coulson had two grabs for 100 yards and a score, Trevor Helmlinger pulled down four catches for 53 yards, Vonderhuevel had three catches for 41 yards and a TD, Keith finished with three grabs for 40 yards and a score, and Blaine Dixon rushed for 32 yards on four attempts.
Defensively, Dixon led the way with 14 tackles. Adding 10 tackles each for the Pirates were Justin Worrell, Jesse Kite and Keith.
“I thought our defense played well all night,” Doty said. “The credit goes to the defense because they kept us in the game and allowed us to get the win.”
The victory keeps the Pirates within striking distance of NWCC leader Fairbanks, which remains the lone conference unbeaten at 3-0 on the season.
“Hopefully we can still win the league, but we are going to need some help,” Doty said. “Winning the NWCC remains our goal.”
Riverside (2-4, 2-1) will play host to Troy Christian (2-4) on Friday in non-league action.