Raiders blank Eastern, 27-0


TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — It may be the season opener, but the Raider defense already appears to be in mid-season form.

The River Valley football team forced four turnovers opened the 2017 campaign with a 27-0 victory over non-conference host Eastern, on Friday night at East Shade River Stadium, in Meigs County.

The Eagles (0-1) missed an opportunity to score in the game’s very first drive, covering 59 yards on six straight running plays to get within three yards of the goal line. However, EHS was backed up a total of eight yards over the next two plays, losing possession on downs at the 11-yard line.

River Valley (1-0) — which has now won four consecutive season openers — punted the ball away on its first two drives, as the Raiders were scoreless in the first quarter.

After punting on their second drive of the game, the Eagles’ third possession was cut short by a interception from RVHS senior Dustin Barber.

River Valley broke the scoreless tie on its third possession of the game, as senior quarterback Patrick Brown tossed a 14-yard scoring pass to Barber, at the 9:43 mark of the second period. The extra-point kick was blocked and the Raiders held a 6-0 lead following the nine-play, 39-yard drive.

Eastern appeared to be on its way to answering the Raider score, driving deep into RVHS territory on the ensuing drive. However, the Eagles were halted on the 16-yard line, where they fumbled the ball away with 5:17 left in the half.

The Raiders had their share of misfortune in the second quarter as well, fumbling the ball away at the Eagle 21-yard line with 4:57 on the clock.

After a three-and-out from both sides, River Valley had one final shot to score in the first half, but Blake Newland intercepted a pass in the end zone, sending the teams to the locker room with RVHS ahead 6-0.

River Valley and Eastern both went three-and-out to open the second half.

The Raider offense found its grove on its second chance of the third quarter, as the Silver and Black covered 64 yards in 11 plays for the score. Brown called his own number from the one-yard line for the touchdown, and RVHS sophomore Colton Gilmore kicked home the extra point to give the guests a 13-0 lead with 5:11 left in the third.

On the fourth play of the ensuing Eagle drive, the snap was fumbled and RVHS recovered the ball on the EHS 38. On a second-and-10 from the same spot, River Valley found paydirt, as Brown connected with Barber for a 38-yard scoring pass. Gilmore added the point after, giving RVHS a 20-0 lead with 3:18 left in the third.

Eastern got its first first down of the second half in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but the ball was fumbled away on the very next play. RVHS lost a fumble of its own four plays into the next drive, but the Raider defense forced Eastern to punt for the sixth and final time game.

River Valley’s final drive covered 79 yards in eight plays, the eighth of which was a four-yard scoring run by Gabe Stapleton. Gilmore added the extra-point to give the guests a 27-0 lead with 4:54 left in regulation. Eastern ran the remainder of the time off of the clock, covering 52 yards in 10 plays.

“Anytime you’re 1-0 it’s a heck of a lot better than being 0-1,” RVHS head coach Jerrod Sparling said. “That goal is accomplished, now we have a few things to iron-out. We were lucky enough to get the shut out, that’s a tribute to the staff, the players and the scheme, and my hat’s off to all of them.

“Anytime you win the turnover battle you just put yourself in a better position to win, it’s a big point of emphasis for us,” Sparling added. “On the flip side, we put the ball on the ground way too much, we can’t do that next week.”

As a team, the Raiders outgained Eastern by a 292-to-218 clip, including 101-to-14 through the air. RVHS won the turnover battle by one and punted five times, one less than EHS. The Eagles committed six penalties for 51 yards, while River Valley was flagged seven times for 95 yards. The Silver and Black also held a 17-to-11 advantage in first downs.

“W wanted to come in and play all out with great effort, and the effort was there” EHS head coach Pat Newland said. “There’s a hump that we’re at. We keep climbing, we keep clawing and we’re doing everything we can to get over that hump. It was 27-0, but it very easily could have been 21-14. I’m very proud of the effort we gave, but we just have to get over the hump.”

Brown finished the game with 27 yards and one score on 12 carries, to go with 101 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 8-of-21 passing.

Barber was the game’s leading receiver, hauling in five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Cole Young had a game-best 161 rushing yards on 16 carries, while also grabbing one pass for 12 yards. Stapleton had eight yards and one touchdown on three carries, while Layne Fitch ran once for four yards and caught two passes for six yards.

EHS quarterback Nate Durst was 4-of-10 for 14 yards with an interception, while rushing 11 times for 21 yards. Eastern’s leading rusher was Josh Brewer, who toted the ball 20 times for a total of 94 yards, while catching one pass for negative yardage. Steven Fitzgerald rushed for 35 yards on five attempts, all in the fourth quarter.

Blaise Facemyer rushed seven times for 29 yards, while Blake Newland added 14 yards on six carries and eight yards on one reception. Sharp Facemyer rushed once for 11 yards and caught one one-yard pass, while Mashon Dishong hauled in a six-yard pass.

Eastern begins Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play next week, visiting Miller, which suffered a 10-point setback to defending league champion Waterford on Friday.

“This year, Miller is starting something like nine seniors on offense and eight on defense,” Coach Newland said. “We opened up with two pretty tough football teams. We have to keep climbing, keep clawing and doing what we can do to get over the hump. If we cut out some turnovers we can be in the ball game.”

River Valley’s next game will be Saturday, as the Raiders host the OVB Community Bowl and rival Gallia Academy, which suffered a six-point setback at Meigs on Friday.

“For us, it’s a special week,” Coach Sparling said. “For our kids, our program, our community and really for most of the county, it’s a celebration of our kids and that in itself makes it special. To say it’s the same as any other week would probably be an outright lie. It’s going to exciting, it’s going to be electric and our kids are going to be ready to go.”

The Raiders have now topped Eastern in four consecutive meetings.

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River Valley senior Dustin Barber (10) tries to break away from Eastern’s Noah Browning (15) during the Raiders’ 27-0 victory at East Shade River Stadium, on Friday.
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/08/web1_8.27-RV-D.Barber.jpgRiver Valley senior Dustin Barber (10) tries to break away from Eastern’s Noah Browning (15) during the Raiders’ 27-0 victory at East Shade River Stadium, on Friday. Alex Hawley|OVP Sports

Eastern senior Josh Brewer (9) looks from a block from classmate Trenton Delacruz (58), during the Eagles’ loss to River Valley, on Friday in Tuppers Plains. (Alex Hawley|OVP Sports)
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/08/web1_8.27-wo-EHS-Brewer.jpgEastern senior Josh Brewer (9) looks from a block from classmate Trenton Delacruz (58), during the Eagles’ loss to River Valley, on Friday in Tuppers Plains. (Alex Hawley|OVP Sports)Alex Hawley|OVP Sports

Eastern freshman Blake Newland run past a pair of Raiders on a kickoff return, during River Valley’s 27-0 win at EHS, on Friday. (Alex Hawley|OVP Sports)
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/08/web1_8.27-wo-EHS-Newland.jpgEastern freshman Blake Newland run past a pair of Raiders on a kickoff return, during River Valley’s 27-0 win at EHS, on Friday. (Alex Hawley|OVP Sports)Alex Hawley|OVP Sports

River Valley senior Layne Fitch runs away from Eastern sophomore Daniel Harris, during the Raiders’ victory at EHS, on Friday. (Alex Hawley|OVP Sports)
http://www.mydailytribune.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/08/web1_8.27-wo-RV-Fitch.jpgRiver Valley senior Layne Fitch runs away from Eastern sophomore Daniel Harris, during the Raiders’ victory at EHS, on Friday. (Alex Hawley|OVP Sports)Alex Hawley|OVP Sports

By Alex Hawley

ahawley@aimmediamidwest.com

Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.