It wasn’t officially Halloween on Friday night, but that didn’t keep the Riverside Rebels from getting a little bit of a scare from Country Day.
The Cajuns, a team that had been rolling along on its move to Class 2A until last week, came to Reserve on Friday night with grit and determination and held its own with the No. 3 team in Class 2A — for a while before Riverside prevailed 43-24.
Running back Jase Griffin took a pounding from the Rebels defense, but kept coming back for more. And quarterback Christian Kerut seemed to find the holes in the Riverside secondary.
Although they never led, the Cajuns (7-2, 2-2) threatened often and did manage to tie the game at 17 in the third quarter — when the Rebels seemed to wake up.
Griffin ran 35 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Kerut threw 34 times for 206 yards, but was intercepted twice by Cardez Joseph — his last with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Riverside (7-1, 4-0), which was coming off its huge emotional win last week against crosstown rival St. Charles Catholic and had won six straight games, seemed to play like, well, zombies, for a while, with drives that stalled, penalties that killed drives, and a host of miscues.
“I take full responsibility for that,” Riverside coach Bill Stubbs said. “I didn’t have our guys prepared tonight. I don’t think we came out flat, I think we just came out extremely unprepared.”
“I thought we played down to the competition,” said Riverside linebacker Evan Veron, who was tasked with trying to stop Griffin all night. “Second half, I thought we bounced back, but it wasn’t to our standard. We have a certain standard and we didn’t meet it this game. We weren’t expecting this. They fought hard.”
But the Rebels found ways to score — a 39-yard scoop and score of a Country Day fumble and a 13-yard run by Brandon Sanders in the first quarter and a school-record and career-long 52-yard field goal for Tyler Gauthier in the second quarter kept the Rebels in the game until they got going in the third quarter.
Gauthier had four catches for 99 yards. Butler had 49 yards passing in the first half and finished with 198 yards on 10 completions. Sanders rushed for 141 yards on 17 carries.
Country Day tied the game at 17 with a 60-yard drive capped by Griffin’s 7-yard run with 7:08 remaining. But after that, Riverside pulled away with a 26-yard field goal by Gauthier, a 57-yard pass from Jared Butler to Jalen Banks then a blocked punt by Trey Catoire (his second of the night), that resulted in a safety that put Riverside ahead 29-17 with 10:30 remaining in the game.
The Rebels added a 5-yard touchdown run by Herb McGee with 8:51 remaining, then put the final touch on the game with an 80-yard strike from Butler to Gauthier with 3:59 remaining.
“We’re a resilient bunch of kids,” Country Day coach Joe Chango said. “We knew what we were up against. That’s a heck of a football team. All we wanted to do was come out and play as hard as we could for as long as we could.”