Said Riverside Military Academy coach Gary Downs: “From my first day here, I knew that we had athletes, but we haven’t been able to put all of the parts together. Until now.”
The Eagles saved their best for last and “put all the parts together,” executing in every phase of the game to post their second win of the season, 35-3 over the playoff-bound Greene County Tigers.
It was the fewest points the Eagles allowed since Sept. 30, 2011.
“We told the team all week that they can not come out and play afraid,” Downs said. “Last week and this week, we told them they have to play bold.”
Riverside scored tied its season high for points and gave up 19 fewer points than to anyone all season. The Eagles also forced six fumbles, recovering four, recorded at least five sacks and intercepted two Tiger passes on defense.
The Eagles accumulated 17 first downs and never gave the Greene County offense, which was averaging 40 points over their past three games, a chance to get going.
In a stretch of six possessions from the second quarter into the third, the Tigers had three fumbles, a field goal, an interception and a turnover on downs.
Leading this two-sided attack was Adrian Humphrey, who rushed for a 108 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, all game highs. He caught a pass on offense, while deflecting several opponent pass attempts on defense. In the third quarter, he picked off Tiger quarterback Quinton Whitner.
“I could see a difference in Adrian on Wednesday in practice,” Downs said. “I don’t know if it was because he started to realize that this would be his final high school competition or what. He did everything tonight for us.”
“This feels good,” Humphrey said. “We’ve come such a long way from last year. This is a completely different team. Our attitude, toughness, everything.”
Humphrey, a senior from Stockbridge, said this senior class, which amassed 10 wins while at Riverside, gave his team leadership.
“We have leaders and now the next guys have to step up,” he said. “We played this season as brothers and no matter what happened on the field we were always a team.
“We (the seniors) wanted to come out here and give the Riverside community something to cheer about. They come out here even when we are bad and cheer for us so we wanted to give this community something to be happy about.”
Humphrey scored the game’s first points on a 17-yard run, capping a 12-play drive at the 3:19 mark in the first quarter.
Not to be outdone by the seniors, freshman Elijah Holyfield scored on two runs of 14 and 6 yards. He finished the night as the second leading rusher with 97 yards on 18 carries.
The first-year coach could not have been more proud of Humphrey and his first team. “I knew it would be a tough night, but is a lot of encouragement to finish a season like this,” Downs said. “It can only help the program we are trying to build here.”
“Being a military school, we don’t all grow up playing together, so sometimes it takes us a little longer to get used to playing together,” Humphrey said. “I just hope we have started something here. We love Coach Downs, his faith in God, and what he brings to Riverside.”
“Now we have to retain the guys coming back and start conditioning for next year. Wins like this do that,” Downs said. “We have had guys who were kicked off the team begging to come to practice because of this family atmosphere.
Downs told his team in their final post game speech of the season, “I want to thank these seniors for what they have done this year. Now for you younger guys, next season starts right now.”