BUFFALO GAP — It was not the game some had anticipated.
Riverheads and Buffalo Gap met Saturday night in a battle of unbeatens that some thought had the potential to match last year’s thriller. However, that’s not the way things worked out.
The Gladiators dominated the Bison, scoring 35 unanswered points in the first half and cruised to a 49-7 victory in Shenandoah District action.
The Red Pride, who move to 5-0 with the win, controlled both sides of the ball, using their running game to steamroll the Bison while the defense kept them out of the end zone. It wasn’t close to last year’s clash, won by the Gladiators 21-14 on their final series of the game.
“I didn’t expect this either,” Riverheads head coach Robert Casto said. “I thought our kids were focused and played really hard. The Gap kids played hard, but we had a bounce here and a bounce there, and we got ‘mo’ on our side a little bit, and our kids took advantage of the situations.”
The momentum swung early in the second quarter with Riverheads up 14-0, courtesy of a backbreaking pick-six by Brett Hostelter. The Bison had driven down to the Gladiators’ 22 when Hostetler picked off a pass in the flat and raced 81 yards for the touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
It was one of several sparkling defensive plays that kept the momentum on Riverheads’ side.
“I thought, defensively, we really got after it,” Casto said. “[Buffalo Gap] is a good offensive team and I thought our quickness had a lot to do with us stalemating some of the things they were doing.”
The Riverheads ground game did the rest, getting stellar blocking from its offensive line to unofficially roll up 343 rushing yards.
“All the credit goes to our offensive line,” Casto said. “They ‘re the unsung heroes for us. They controlled the line of scrimmage and when you control the line of scrimmage, good things are going to happen for you.”
The Gladiators wasted no time making good things happen, taking the opening kick off and driving 70 yards in 12 plays as Jordan took it over from the 1 to cap the drive. Rinaldo Martina’s PAT made it 7-0.
Riverheads got the ball back right away as the defense forced a fumble that Schaefer recovered at the Riverheads 45. Five plays later, Schaefer got loose for a 30-yard TD and just like that, the Gladiators were up 14-0 by the end of the first quarter.
After the teams traded possessions, the Bison got their offense rolling. But Hostetler’s pick-six ended that drive and when Gap went out on a three-and-out on the ensuing series, the Red Pride made it 28-0 as Schaefer vaulted a defender and raced 30 yards to the end zone to make it 28-0.
Riverheads added a fifth first-half score, using an eight-play, 62-yard drive to boost the score to 35-0. Jordan capped that drive with an 18-yard rumble.
“They took it to us,” Bison head coach Andy Cline said. “I thought we were prepared. Evidently not. We’ve got to do a better job, all of us. We’re better than we showed tonight, and we’re going to get work this week, and we’ll be back.”
The Bison finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter when Jacob Callison capped a 10-play, 43-yard drive with a 1-yard run to make it 35-7.
But the Gladiators added two more scores before the final whistle. Jaden Phillips scored on an 8-yard run and Devin Morris capped the night with a 47-yard TD run.
Riverheads hosts East Rockingham on Friday, while the Bison travel to Stuarts Draft to take on the unbeaten Cougars.
RIVERHEADS 14 21 0 14 — 49
BUFFALO GAP 0 0 0 7 — 7
R – Jordan 1 run (Martina kick)
R – Schaefer 30 run (Martina kick)
R – Hostetler 81 interception return (Martina kick)
R – Schaefer 29 run (Martina kick)
R – Jordan 18 run (Martina kick)
B – Calison 1 run (Hoke kick)
R – Phillips 8 run (Martina kick)
R – Morris 47 run (Martina kick)