Riverside took one step closer to grabbing both a league title and a trip to the OHSAA football playoffs after the Pirates steamrolled host Lima Perry, 39-0, in a Northwest Central Conference football contest Oct. 16.
With the win, the Pirates improve to 7-1 on the season and 4-1 in the NWCC, which keeps them atop the conference standings. Ft. Loramie and Upper Scioto Valley have identical 4-1 conference records, but Riverside was responsible for both the Redskins’ and the Rams’ conference losses this season. Riverside’s lone loss came at the hands of Sidney Lehman, which was one of four teams at the top of the NWCC standings going into Week 8, but the Cavaliers slipped into second, losing to Ft. Loramie while the Pirates were torpedoing the Commodores.
The win against Perry (2-6 overall, 2-3 NWCC) marks the second time this season that Riverside pitched a shutout, the first coming at Arcadia in Week 2. As a team, Riverside has given up a total of only 68 points on the season (8.5 ppg) which is 85 points less than the second best scoring defense (Ft. Loramie with 153) in the NWCC. Take out the 26 points that Lehman scored in handing Riverside its only loss, and that average drops to a even six ppg. Add the fact that the Pirates are scoring 37.5 points per game (17 ppg better than any other team in the NWCC) and it’s no surprise that they are marching both toward the league hardware and a playoff spot.
Things were no different against the Commodores as the Pirates allowed the hosts to run a mere 28 offensive plays and earn just five first downs on the night. Riverside forced three turnovers – including a interception and a fumble recovery by Shane Crawford – had six tackles for loss, and threw in a sack by Hank Harshbarger for good measure. Conner Cotterman led the team with 11 tackles as the visitors kept Perry off balance and out of the end zone.
Riverside’s offense is a mirror of the defense, tough as an old boot and just about as complicated. The Pirates rolled up 383 total yards on the night, all but 20 of those coming on the ground. In addition to banging heads on defense, Cotterman ran for 144 yards on 18 carries and punched it into the end zone for three TDs. Junior Joey Kaeck broke free for three long runs in the second quarter alone and closed with 135 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, while Peyton Scherer rushed for 81 yards and a score. As a team, the Pirates averaged 8.1 per rushing attempt in the game.
If any part of Riverside’s game contains flash, it’s a propensity for scoring defensive and special teams touchdowns, which account for eight of the team’s 44 total TDs – two fumble returns, three pick-sixes, and three kickoff returns, Hayden Robinson adding the most recent against Perry Oct. 16 with a 76-yard runback for a quick-six.
As far as the OHSAA Division VII football playoffs are concerned, Riverside “controls own destiny,” meaning that should the Pirates win their remaining two games – both DeGraff affairs against Waynesfield-Goshen Oct. 23 and the regular season closer against Hardin Northern Oct. 30 – the Pirates will be playing in Week 11, with a very good shot at hosting the opening-round game in southwestern Logan County.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.