Sometimes the ball bounces your way — and sometimes it doesn’t.
For Riverside Military, it was the latter. The Eagles (0-1) turned the ball over five times on Friday night en route to a 21-14 loss to Pinecrest Academy at Maginnis Field.
Two of the five were interceptions thrown by first-year quarterback, sophomore Collin Pettell, both returned for touchdowns.
“Two pick-sixes is difficult to come back from,” Eagles coach Chris Cotter said. “I don’t mind stalled drives where we can punt and play field position — our defense is pretty stout. But when you give up two picks for six points each, it’s difficult to rally from.”
The first interception was thrown on the first drive deep within the Eagles’ own territory.
It looked as if the Eagles would recover well from that mistake, quickly tying the game on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Pettell to Adrian Humphery. Humphery, who joined the team just three days before the first game, finished with 75 yards on four receptions.
“We pressed (Humphery) into action right away, there, and it worked out pretty darn well,” Cotter said.
He was also happy with the way Pettell responded despite the mistakes.
“I think that’s one of the things that Riverside Military teaches these young men is that when you’re down, it’s not over,” he said. “Just keep fighting — maybe something good is gonna happen. I was really happy with the effort.”
Pettell added another touchdown pass to Quinton Young, a 28-yard score in the fourth quarter.
He finished 17 of 34 passing for 202 yards, including two touchdown passes to go along with the two interceptions. Young led the team in receiving with 83 yards.
The only touchdown Cotter’s defense allowed was a last-minute score as time was winding down in the first half.
The Paladins connected on a 26-yard deflected pass on third down to put the ball at the one yard-line. Pinecrest running back Jacob Carr punched it in to give his team the lead for good.
The Eagle defense allowed just 220 yards and came up with three sacks and three forced fumbles. Defensive leaders for Riverside were seniors Marlan Edwards, who had a sack and a fumble recovery, and Patrick Ballow. Ballow finished with six tackles and a fumble recovery.
“Our defense is stout,” Cotter said. “I’m really proud of the way they played.
“This is the first time these guys have been on a varsity football team together. They don’t have the luxury of being together all summer, living in the same community, growing up together and playing little league sports. These are 50 strangers, and we’ve had three weeks to get them ready. And I want to compliment my staff for getting them ready to play and the kids for playing hard for four quarters.”
But, ultimately, the story of the game was the missed opportunities, Cotter said.
“That’s football. Sometimes you make the plays, and sometimes you don’t. And we did not make the plays at critical times.”
Despite the loss, Cotter emphasized one major point to his team as it huddled at midfield.
“This is our first game,” he said. “From here, you have two choices. You can take this loss and pout, or you can take it as something to learn from going forward. It’s up to you.”
The first opportunity to see which his team chooses will come next Friday when the Eagles visit Lumpkin County at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Dahlonega.