The James River football team made their home opener a great night for the locals as they battered an old nemesis last Friday night. River beat Parry McCluer, 30-14, on a beautiful evening in Springwood.
There was a day when a win over Parry McCluer would have been reason for a parade. In the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, wins over the Blues were few and far between, but that was just a bad memory last Friday as River scored the first 24 points of the game and didn’t allow the Blues to get on the board until the fourth quarter.
“We handled their running game,” said River coach Jake Phillips. “They live on three yards and a cloud of dust and our goal was to hold them to less than three yards on the early downs. That would force them to do some things they didn’t want to do.”
The River defense was able to make seven tackles for losses, including three sacks. Parry McCluer workhorse Marcellus Dawson gained 148 yards on 32 carries but the Knights made him work for every yard and, when they would bend, they did not break.
River jumped to the early lead when Michael Hays broke loose for a 50-yard TD run to open the scoring. Then Coulter Hodges hit River Clonch with a 17-yard touchdown pass and it was 12-0 after the first quarter, as River failed on a couple two-point conversion tries.
Hodges connected to Hays for a second quarter score, an eight-yard pass, and again the conversion failed, but River had an 18-0 lead at the half.
The Knights put it away in the second half as Hodges threw two more touchdown passes. He hit Michael Taylor for a 24-yard score to make it 24-0, and after the Blues scored early in the fourth quarter Hodges threw his fourth TD pass of the night, this time to Erik Tolley for 51 yards.
Hodges had a great night passing. He completed 12 of 16 passes and that included one that he intentionally threw away and a “Hail Mary” pass at the end of the first half. So, in essence, he completed 12 of 14 for the night.
“He was very efficient,” said Phillips. “Coulter throws the ball real well. He throws the ball in a place where the receiver can catch it as well as anyone I’ve coached, and he can throw it while getting hit.”
Hodges passed for 207 yards against the Blues, including five to Tolley for 79 yards. Clonch caught four for 40, Taylor had two catches for 80 yards and Hays had one catch for eight yards.
Hays led the rushing with 11 carries for 101 yards. Hodges ran twice for 72 yards and Jesse Riley had four rushes for 28 yards.
On defense Luke Peay had 21 tackles and Daniel Holter had 20. Taylor had 13, Clonch had a dozen and Logan Williamson played well on the line.
“Logan gave us a huge spark on defense,” said Phillips.
Now 2-1, the Knights are back home this Friday to play host to Covington.
THIS WEEK’S GAME
This Friday the Knights are back home to play host to an old Pioneer District rival for the second week in a row. This week it’s the Covington Cougars.
Covington is 1-2 after shutting out Greenbrier West in West Virginia last week, 14-0. The Cougars opened with a 24-20 loss to Alleghany and a 28-6 loss to Glenvar in the first two weeks of the season.
The Cougars are coached by Chris Jones, who guided the team to a 6-5 record and a playoff berth in his first year at the helm last season. Quarterback K.J. Moore returns and he’s dangerous, but Covington had to rebuild the offensive line in the off-season.
“They have some dangerous players,” said River coach Jake Phillips. “They put some good athletes on the field and run the option. We’ll have to play sound defense against them.”
The Knights will be looking to start 3-1 for the first time since 2012. They have a bye next week before the “Rocking Chair” game with Glenvar, and a win going into the break would give the Knights some good momentum for what is now a district game.
KEY TO THE GAME
“We need to be consistent running the football and limit their big plays,” said Phillips