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Riverside Military Academy coach Gary Downs had a different homecoming in mind before his Eagles took on Whitefield Academy on Friday night in Gainesville.
The Eagles fell to the Wolfpack, 42-0.
“It was good to be back (at Riverside), but we obviously have a lot of work to do.” Downs said. “We also have to remember that this is the first time we have been on the field.”
Because most of the players for Riverside (0-1) are boarding students and start practice a couple of weeks later than most other teams, the Eagles were unable to have a preseason scrimmage and had a bye week last week.
Downs said the bye week helped the team but there is still room for improvement on all sides of the ball.
“Sure the late start is a disadvantage, but we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to look at what we did tonight and move on to next week,” Downs said.
Despite the blowout score, the Eagles’ first-year coach came away impressed by the effort of his team. Downs noted the bright spots during the game, but the consistency was not there due to lack of practice.
“We were much better conditioned than I thought, and we were able to match them in the first quarter and most of the second,” Downs said.
After a scoreless, back-and-forth first quarter, Whitefield Academy (1-1) running back Richard Sherrell scored with nine minutes to go in the second quarter by capping off a 12-play, 83-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
Whitefield Academy executed a trick play to convert a successful two-point conversion, making the game 8-0.
In their next possession, Sherrell scored again on a 10-yard scamper 4:49 later, putting the Wolfpack up by 14.
“After the first quarter, when the game was tied, we knew we just had to keep grinding to score,” Sherrell said. “My running back coach told me to be patient and the holes would open up.”
Sherrell ended the night as the game’s top rusher with 82 yards on 15 carries.
On their third drive of the second quarter, and with only 26 seconds left in the half, the Wolfpack scored again on quarterback Everrett Pollard’s 2-yard carry up the middle.
Pollard added another score through the air on the Wolfpacks’ fourth consecutive drive ending in a score. The 40-yard pass connected with Matt Olson on the only passing touchdown of the night.
“I expected to come out strong after a tough loss last week,” Whitefield Academy coach Jimmy Fields said. “Playing hard is no surprise for me and this team.”
Fields also was impressed by the fight the Eagles put up throughout the night.
“Gary is beginning to build a strong program here, and I have a lot of respect for him and his team,” Field said.
“His (Downs) kids have a lot of fight and stopped us a few times on fourth down.”
As far as the quarterback controversy that is brewing between Riverside’s two juniors, Downs was not quite ready to say which direction he was going for the rest of the season.
“The coaching staff is still getting to learn the team.” Downs said. “We will be able to tell more the more chances we have to see them play in live action.”
Stephen Wechsler started the game for Riverside. Last year’s starting quarterback, Collin Patell, came in for the last series of the second quarter and the two switched in-and out throughout the second half.
Riverside will travel to Milledgeville to take on Georgia Military next Friday.