Brandon McKinney had five catches for 149 yards and a touchdown and the Riverside Military Academy defense limited Banks County to 90 yards in the second half for a 23-12 victory Friday night at Maginnis Field.
The Eagles (1-1, 1-0 Region 8-AA) clawed their way back from an early 12-0 deficit barely 10 minutes into the game. A resilient defense and solid play from senior quarterback Alex O’Donnell proved to be enough.
"We had a little bit of panic set in. But we knew that if we stuck with things, we could come back," said McKinney, a senior tight end. "There was no doubt. This shows we can come back and win these types of games. That’s big for us. That’s why we work hard — to win."
O’Donnell finished 9-of-17 for 169 yards and two touchdowns, one to McKinney and a 9-yard keeper with four minutes left to clinch the victory. The quarterback from Toronto ran the option on the final drive, rushing nine times for 58 yards. He also had a critical 30-yard completion to McKinney to set up the final touchdown.
"We thought we could make it work with the option," O’Donnell said. "We didn’t put in the playbook until the middle of the week, and our coaches worked a lot with me on getting me comfortable with it. I had never run it before but I had faith in my team to make it work. That’s how games go."
Junior Aaron Gambrah scored on a 2-yard run with 8:24 left in the third quarter to put Riverside in front for good. An interception by Seth Sloan set up the eventual game-winning drive and was one of three turnovers for Banks County (0-2, 0-1). Lucas Bersin, a senior linebacker, had a fumble recovery to go along with seven tackles, and John Walker ended the Leopards’ final drive with a late interception.
"All we needed was our momentum and focus," said Walker, also senior. "Early on, that wasn’t there. We weren’t ready to play. We got a couple of talks from our coaches and guys like Lucas. They let us know that we all had to help each other up. A game like this can serve as a building block and a stepping stone.
Dylan Lackey carried the ball and the load for Banks County in the first half. The junior fullback ran for 109 yards on 19 carries, accounting for all but five yards and six plays of the Leopards’ first-half tally. His 3-yard run, the last of his 12 carries on the opening drive, capped a 16-play, 80-yard march on Banks County’s opening possession.
He finished with 139 yards on 31 carries.
Riverside’s opening play resulted in Banks County’s second touchdown. Jeremy Greenway ripped away an Eagles handoff and returned it 34 yards for another touchdown.
"They were a little nervous. They had a look in their eyes and were concerned," Riverside coach Scot Sloan said. "We were able to settle them down and get those 11 points in the second quarter. We talked to them in a pretty calm manner and settled in to our game plan.
"We had a little success running at first then got sluggish in the first half. We knew we had to spread them out over the field and keep them guessing. Alex settled down made some good throws to keep the chains moving. That’s the name of the game."
Victor Salcido kicked a 31-yard field goal early in the second quarter for Riverside’s first points. The Eagles picked up two more points seven minutes later when Banks County snapped a punt attempt into the end zone seven minutes later for a safety.
"We executed early just like we wanted to," Banks County coach Blair Armstrong said. "He had a couple of injuries from last week’s game and had to fill some spots on the defensive end. And when you have to go up against an option, that makes it that much tougher. They took advantage and we aren’t the type of team that can come back quickly."