BIDWELL, Ohio — A statement victory from the Raiders.
The River Valley football team defeated the visiting Athens Bulldogs 35-21 in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio division match-up on Friday night at Raider Field in Gallia County.
The Raiders (7-2, 4-2 TVC Ohio) came out of the gates and never looked back, despite some late offense from Athens (5-4, 3-2).
After the Bulldogs’ first drive of the game stalled, the Raiders marched down the field. Dayton Hardway connected with Kirk Morrow for a 44-yard bomb to get the Silver and Black in the redzone. Mark Wray ran the ball in for a 4-yard touchdown with 9:10 to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders advanced down the field again and into Athens territory after starting on their own 20-yard line. On a fourth and five, Hardway connected with Morrow again, this time for a 26-yard touchdown. The home team led 14-0 with 3:50 left in the first period.
After a Bulldogs fumble, the Raiders were set up on the Athens 27-yard line. Morrow found Wray for his third passing touchdown of the game to give River Valley a 21-0 lead after the first quarter.
Athens wasn’t ready to give up just yet. After stalling on a 73-yard drive, the Bulldogs came out with another long drive that ended in a Zacciah Saltzman touchdown. The home team responded in kind with another touchdown pass from Hardway to Morrow with six seconds left in the second quarter. The Raiders led 28-7 going into halftime.
The Silver and Black started with the ball in the second half and picked up where they left off. Wray rushed for another touchdown less than four minutes into the third quarter to give the Raiders a 35-7 advantage. Athens responded with a Saltzman touchdown. The home team led 35-14 after three quarters of play.
Brendon Sano found Robert Dickelman in the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Bulldogs, but the Raiders held on for the win.
Hardway was 14-of-21 passing for 177 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wray led the Raiders ground game with 19 carries for 95 yards, while Justin Arrowwood had nine carries for 27 yards. Hardway had two carries for 21 yards, while Ty Smittle and Sam Payne each had one carry for three yards and one yard respectively.
Morrow had a team-high seven catches for 120 yards, followed by Wray with four catches for 51 yards.
“It was an unbelievable game for our kids and our community. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” RVHS football coach Jerrod Sparling said afterwards. “We came out ready to go in the first half and battled through adversity. We got a lead and held on to it. We did what we needed to do and ran the ball in the second half. Hats off to my guys and my seniors. I couldn’t be happier for my guys.”
Sano was 17-of-34 passing for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Saltzman had 28 carries for 116 yards. Trey Keiffer had four catches for 43 yards and Heath Wiseman had four catches for 34 yards.
This win puts River Valley closer to a playoff berth. It would be the first in the school’s history. The Raiders need a win at Shadyside and possibly some help from around the area.
The Silver and Black will face the Tigers in their season finale on Friday at Shadyside. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Donald Lambert can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106