By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
HUNTING VALLEY —
It took Riverside more than six minutes to achieve the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon. It took 16 seconds for the lead to be erased.
After quarterback Maxx Brubaker scored on a one-yard keeper to the left side to cap a 16-play, 80-yard march just two plays into the final period, University School’s Kevin Smith took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to paydirt. The host Preppers were able to hold off the Beavers the rest of the way for a 24-20 win in a seesaw battle.
Smith escaped down the left sideline for the winning score.
“It was a couple guys just not doing their jobs, and one of their guys making a great play,” Riverside coach Dave Bors said of the return. “They put their two best players back there on the kick return.
“We have confidence in our kick cover team, so we kick to those guys. We favor (Smith) as opposed to (Luke Vadas), and you’ve still got to do your job when you’re coming down to cover the kick. One guy gets pushed off a little bit. Another great player can make a play, which he did. Give him credit.”
“We actually have a good kickoff return, US coach Jim Stephens said. “We isolate two guys. That was a key return.”
Riverside (5-2, 3-1), which suffered its first Premier Athletic Conference loss, was the symbol of perseverance in the long march. It overcame a nine-yard loss on a fumbled snap, an unforced fumble after it appeared a receiver might be about to break away for a score, and two illegal procedure penalties after gaining a first-and-goal at the one yard line. The Beavers achieved six of their 11 first downs and 61 of their 93 passing yards on the possession to grab their third lead at 20-17.
Then it was gone in one fell swoop.
Riverside fumbled away the kickoff on the next play, and didn’t get a first down on either of its final two possessions.
Other than on the one aforementioned drive, Riverside never got its vaunted passing game going. Marcus Jones took the ball in from 17 yards to give it a 6-0 lead to open the second quarter three plays after Nick Iapaolo had returned a punt 32 yards to put the ball on the US 33. Jones preceded his scoring run with a 15-yard carry.
Then after trailing at halftime 10-6, the Beavers got their other score on the first play from scrimmage of the second half when Matt Milostan broke a 70-yard run down the left side after taking an option pitchout.
“University was doing a nice job, and we knew that they were a skilled football team coming in, Bors said. “We talked about at halftime just shoring up the things that we do well, and making them better. Guys weren’t executing very well. Guys weren’t doing their jobs extremely well.
“They knew it. The guys were pressing a little bit, and trying to do too much, I think a little bit at first. And so we just came out and said, ‘Hey do your job; take whatever they’re giving you.’ They were giving us that play and Milostan had a great run.”
The Preppers (3-4, 2-2) got their other touchdowns on a pair of runs by Andrew Dorogi (17 carries, 116 yards) that finished long drives. It responded to Jones’ TD by moving 80 yards in just six plays, with Dorogi breaking loose to the left for a 49-yard touchdown after having appeared to have been stopped at the line.
Dorogi, who left the contest with 7:36 left with an ankle injury of unknown severity, took it in from one yard to finish an 84-yard drive for a 17-13 advantage just before Riverside’s long march,
Quarterback Jack Weber, who began the year as a starter but had lost that job, came into the game to begin the Preppers’ first scoring drive, and helped ignite the offense. He completed 14 of his 19 passes for 128 yards.
“Whenever one quarterback is just not sharp, we (can) give the other kid a try and see what he does,” Stephens said.
Tyler Bell provided the other US score with a 35-yard field goal 2:01 before the break.
As for the general inability to move the ball through the air, Bors said, “It’s the reads and the routes and not being precise. It’s got to be precise. It’s not just going out there and they’re going to let you throw it.
“US was good. They put some pressure on us, and they have some skilled athletes in the defensive backfield.”
Bors also related that often a team that runs a spread offense, as the Preppers do, can defend it better because the defense sees it in practice. Stephens, who has been using that type of offense for well over a decade, said that wind, which was present on Saturday, is the biggest enemy of a spread offense.
The Wasser brothers — defensive linemen Hunter and Tyler — and linebacker Desi Filey all had big games for US.
“We actually only blitzed our linebackers once,” Stephens said. “We have some pretty good athletes on our line, and we thought we could get to the quarterback with just our line, and drop back and get coverage from our linebackers. Our defensive line did a nice job, I thought.
Bors was pleased that the Beavers held Vadas to 40 yards on four catches. But Stephens said he used Riverside’s focus on the star wideout to his team’s advantage.
“They were out there yelling, ‘Seven’s over here. Seven’s over here,’ “ he said. “It doesn’t take much thinking to hear them on the sideline yelling, ‘Seven’s here,’ so we should probably throw over there, away from seven. We try to move the ball around.”
Defensive end August Runyon had a stellar game for the Beavers with numerous tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.
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