Some say the mark of a good team is that, even when it plays bad, it’s good.
Riverside showed that Friday night.
It certainly wasn’t the No. 2-ranked Rebels’ best effort, but it was good enough for them to take a dominating 49-6 victory over Sophie B. Wright to stay atop the District 8-2A standings and remain undefeated on the season. The Warriors dropped to 2-7, 1-5.
The Rebels won despite three turnovers and a sputtering running game. Freshman quarterback Jordan Loving, who entered the game having thrown three interceptions all season, threw two. But he also threw four touchdown passes, giving him 31 on the season. He connected with Von Julian and Tyler Gauthier for one each, while Herb McGee had two. McGee also added an 82-yard punt return and Julian added an 81-yard kickoff return. Hardell Mack had the Rebels’ lone rushing touchdown. Gauthier was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra points as well.
The defense meanwhile, held the Warriors to 20 yards rushing. Starting quarterback Derek Robinson passed for 56 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. His replacement, Kevin Johnson, passed for 74 yards and scored his team’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run with 21 seconds remaining in the game.
Riverside coach Bill Stubbs didn’t seem overly concerned about his team’s miscues on a night of dropping temperatures, increasing winds and the distractions of Halloween.
“It’s kind of a tough thing,” Stubbs said. “We’re asking our kids to do a lot. It’s a looking-ahead syndrome that I get concerned with a little bit. I thought we started slow, kind of lethargic and uninspired. There were spots in there that I thought they made up for things. Our consistency right now, it is what it is. We’re going to continue to get better. There’s things we have to get cleaned up. It’s just hard to stay at a high level. That’s probably the biggest challenge, when you have to stay at a night level in order to get better.”
Loving admitted this was not his best night.
“We didn’t come out and execute like we wanted to,” the 14-year-old said. “There were times when we looked pretty sharp and other times we looked sloppy. I was out of sync a little bit, had a few missed reads. I’ll take the blame for that. It’s a great learning experience, me being my first time throwing two interceptions. It showed me a lot about how to handle adversity.”
Loving threw his first touchdown of the night with 7:36 remaining in the first quarter, connecting with Julian on a 15-yard pass to cap a seven play, 52-yard drive.
But on Riverside’s next possession, Loving was intercepted by Wright’s Terrence Smith at the Warriors’ 36-yard line. Wright turned the ball over on downs four plays later.
The Rebels turned the fall over on downs on their next possession, but the Warriors could not capitalize. Riverside started its next scoring drive at midfield and scored six plays later when Loving threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to McGee with 9:15 remaining in the first half.
Riverside made it 21-0 when Loving found McGee again, this time for a 32-yard touchdown with 6:13 remaining in the half. But the Rebels’ next possession ended when Loving was intercepted by Rashad Hartford at midfield with 4:38 remaining.
Riverside increased its lead to 28-0 when Mack scored from the one with 1:40 remaining in the half.
But the Rebels weren’t finished. Julian took the second half kickoff and returned it 81 yards for a touchdown – his fourth kickoff return for a score this season.
Loving then connected with Gauthier on a 4-yard touchdown with 8:21 remaining in the third quarter to give the Rebels a 42-0 lead.
Their last touchdown came when McGee fielded a Warriors punt at the 18 and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown with 6:05 remaining.