GREENVILLE – Call it what you will. Bend-don’t-break. Opportunistic. Gutsy.
That last one is the word Riverheads football coach Robert Casto chose to describe his defense Friday night.
Waynesboro overcame an early 21-0 deficit to get within a touchdown in the second half and, midway through the fourth quarter, had the ball with a chance to tie.
That’s when the Gladiators’ defense came up with perhaps the biggest play of the night, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Riverheads junior Chase Armstrong.
Riverheads turned that fumble recovery into a touchdown and the eventual 35-21 win.
“It came down to turning the football over,” said Casto. “Waynesboro turned it over a couple of times and we took advantage of the turnovers…I thought our defense came up with some gutsy plays.”
Harrison Schaefer ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns, including the final one, a 34-yard run that sealed the win.
And while the Riverheads running game was its usual potent self – Colt Miller also went for triple digits on the ground and a pair of touchdowns – the defense came up big time after time.
On two of its first three drives of the game, Waynesboro got huge kickoff returns to start the possessions in Riverheads’ territory. Both times Riverheads managed to keep the Little Giants off the scoreboard.
“Jiminy Crickets, we got the ball on a short field twice,” said Waynesboro coach Derek McDaniel. “And we don’t do anything with it because we shoot ourselves in the foot. I’m not taking anything away from Riverheads. They’re a dang good football team … but Riverheads didn’t do anything to cause our mistakes. We did.”
As much as the Riverheads defense hurt Waynesboro, penalties on the Little Giants hurt also, including an offsides call on a squib kick that, if the penalty hadn’t been called, would have given the ball to Waynesboro late in the first half down two touchdowns.
Waynesboro scored late in the second quarter after a Riverheads turnover, then added another touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Chris Baker to Cody Dawson with 6:39 left in the third quarter.
Riverheads’ Colt Miller is brought down with the ball during a football game played in Greenville on Friday, Sept 18, 2015.
Then, down just a touchdown, Waynesboro came up with its own defense stop to get the ball back on downs.
But the Little Giants couldn’t do anything with it, giving it right back to the Gladiators on downs. Riverheads then scored on a 5-yard Schaefer run to go in front 28-14.
Waynesboro got one more chance after another Baker-to-Dawson touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but the fumble ended that threat.
The win was the first in a big three-week stretch for Riverheads. Next week the Gladiators travel to a Luray team that some think could compete for the top spot in the Shenandoah District. The following week Riverheads returns home to face a much-improved Buffalo Gap team.
“I say it all the time and I know people get tired of hearing it,” said Casto. “We do what we do. Bottom line. If the other team can stop us they’re going to beat us. If they can’t they’re going to lose.”
Waynesboro 0 7 7 7 — 21
Riverheads 14 7 7 7 — 35
RHS — Miller 4 run (Robson kick)
RHS — Schaefer 6 run (Robson kick)
RHS — Miller 16 run (Robson kick)
WHS — Dawson 4 pass from Baker (Dawson kick)
WHS — Baker 4 run (Dawson kick)
RHS — Schaefer 5 run (Robson kick)
WHS – Dawson 9 pass from Baker (Dawson kick)
RHS – Schaefer 34 run (Robson kick)