The young Riverside Military Academy football program is quickly earning its stripes.
The Eagles (3-3, 1-0 Georgia Independent Schools Association North Class AAA) put together big defensive stops all night thanks to big hits, pass deflections, a clutch interception and some dropped passes by Mount de Sales’ receivers en route to a 21- 6 win in front of a homecoming crowd at Maginnis Field.
Riverside’s win against Mount de Sales starts its region schedule with a big win and puts the Eagles right in the thick of the GISA playoff picture with four games left to play.
"This was a very important win for our team," Riverside coach Chris Lancaster said. "We have a lot of inexperienced players that did a very good job tonight. I credit our defensive coaching staff for doing a great job in preparing for this game."
The Eagles found their backs against the wall three times late in the game. And each time Riverside rose to the occasion.
Mount de Sales (2-4, 0-1) drove deep in Riverside’s territory trailing 14-8 early in the fourth quarter. On the Cavs’ first attempt, their quarterback Rosser McCallie overshot the receiver in the end zone on third down. On fourth down, Riverside freshman Seth Sloan delivered a big hit in the end zone to break up the possible touchdown.
"Our defense saved us tonight," Lancaster said. "They (Mount de Sales) had a long touchdown drive on us early and that was it."
Even after that big stop the Eagles weren’t out of the woods.
Mount de Sales put together another time-consuming drive, steered by a 22-run on a keeper by McCallie and two third-down conversions by Blake Mahoney. But when the Cavaliers made it to the Riverside 20, an incomplete pass on third down and a quarterback pressure on fourth down brought an end to the drive.
Riverside’s third defensive stand in the fourth quarter proved the biggest. With 3:03 left to play, Eagles junior defensive tackle Colton Keig stepped in the path of a McCallie pass, tipping it to himself and returning it 60 yards for the game’s final score.
"I didn’t even realize I had the ball at first," Keig said excitedly after the win. "Our defensive ends and linebackers played great tonight, and we only had a few missed tackles.
"We’re so happy to get this win."
"He’ll probably want a shot at the running back job now," Lancaster added with a smile.
Riverside senior linebacker Tersoo Uhaa is the only carry over from Riverside’s deep playoff run last season. The Eagles are stepping up to the challenge on defense even with three sophomore starters in the mix.
"These young guys are our future," Uhaa said.
Riverside’s defensive strength helped compensate for its offensive struggles in the second half.
Both of the Eagles’ scores came on touchdown runs from Uhaa (2 and 12 yards) in the second quarter. He finished as Riverside’s leading rusher with 21 carries for 83 yards.
Riverside’s first score came after it took control on the Cavaliers’ 31 yard line with 7:41 remaining in the second quarter. The Eagles kept the ball on the ground for six plays and scored on Uhaa’s dive from the 2. He set up the score with consecutive runs of 7, 8 and 9 yards.
On Riverside’s next drive, the Eagles scored after long pass catches from senior Ewin Holyfield (20 yards) and Adrian Quinones (18 yards). Uhaa also converted a fourth-and-3 with a 4-yard run after breaking tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Eagles also had a solid performance from senior quarterback Bill Dearybury with a 5-for-11 night passing for 81 yards. He made it back on the field after missing their last game with a turf toe injury.
Mount de Sales’ only score came in the first quarter from the 1 on a pass from McCallie to Matt Thompson.
Isaiah Jones led the Cavaliers with six catches for 80 yards. McCallie had 54 yards on the ground.
Riverside Military plays host to John Milledge Academy at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Riverside Military 21, Mount de Sales 6
Mount de Sales 6 0 0 0—6
Riverside 0 14 0 7—21
MDS—Thompson 1 pass from McCallie (kick failed)
RMA—Uhaa 2 run (Towers kick) 5:17
RMA—Uhaa 12 run (Towers kick) 1:00
RMA—Keig 60 INT return (Towers kick) 2:16
First downs 11 10
Rushes-yards 181 90
Passing yards 81 81
Comp.-Att.-Int. 7-18-1 6-15-0
Total yards 262 171
Fumbles-lost 4-1 3-1
Punts-avg. 3-31 3-36
Penalties-yards 0-0 0-0
Rushing: MDS, Walker 5-53, Mahonney 15-28, Edison 8-33, McCallie 10-54, Grant 3-12, Moorhouse 1-1; Riverside, Uhaa 21-83, Dearybury 3-10, McClure 1-2, Peterson 1-(-5).
Passing: MDS, Grant 0-1, McCallie 7-17-1; Riverside, Dearybury, 5-11-0; Peterson 1-4.
Receiving: MDS, Jones 6-80, Thompson 1-1; Riverside, Holyfield 2-34, Glennon 2-5, Cuevas 1-7, Quinones 2-35.