The James River football team will play host to Carroll County this Friday in their last home game of the season. River will finish up the regular season at Radford on November 4.
The Knights’ playoff hopes are still alive, but they’re on life support after a 42-14 loss at Giles last week. That dropped River to 10th place in the Region 2C rankings with the top eight schools qualifying for the playoffs. Gretna currently holds down the eighth and final spot with a 16.62 point rating with Chatham in ninth at 16.25 and River in 10th at 15.62.
The Knights still have a shot at making the playoffs with a late season run. Carroll County is a Class 3 school and Radford is the top-rated team in Region 2C. River would likely leap frog into a playoff spot with two wins but they’re going to have to play better than they did against Giles last Friday.
“We had significant trouble stopping the run on a consistent basis Friday,” said River coach Tim Jennings. “When you are playing that (single wing) offense, and the team runs the ball 92 percent of the time, you have to be able to get off the field on third down. We had several instances where we were able to put them in long downs and distances, but could not stop them.
“Also, and this is not an excuse, but our defense is literally on the field the whole time because most of the starting 11 on both sides are the same kids. We also had several starters out Friday which made us even more short-handed. The silver lining is some younger or lesser experienced guys were able to get significant playing time.”
Giles led just 14-0 at the half but a score just a minute and 44 seconds into the third quarter made it 21-0. The Spartans led 28-0 before the Knights got on the board on a 77-yard TD pass from Zeal Hammons to Trey Taylor with just 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as Brian Moran scored on a 12-yard pass from Hammons for River, but Christian Ratcliffe’s fourth rushing TD of the night put some icing on the cake for the Spartans and a 42-14 final.
Hammons had a good night passing, completing 16 of 29 passes for 257 yards and two scores. Jake Benson led the Knights with seven catches for 57 yards while Moran had four receptions for 103 yards. Taylor had two catches for 82 stripes and Cole Maydian, Joseiah Merchant and Gavin Binns had one reception each. Binns had 45 yards rushing.
“Offensively, we did some good things, but never could feel comfortable because we were not able to stay on schedule,” said Jennings. “We had some untimely penalties or mistakes that forced us to change our game plan a little. Our absolute focal point this week is to get better at staying on schedule and eliminating mistakes we can control.”
Defensively, John Austin led the Knights with 20 tackles while Benson had 19. Gabe Staton had 16 tackles, including two for losses, George Toliver had a dozen and Colin Cook and Moran had 10 tackles each.
The loss dropped River to 3-5 on the season while Carroll County comes to town with a 1-7 record. The Cavaliers won their opener over Patrick County but have lost their past seven games in a row, yielding over 40 points in five of the losses.
“Carroll is going to bring their ‘A game’ to us,” said Jennings. “This is as important for them as it is for us. They will stress on defense because they run so many formations, so it will be paramount that we are able to line up to all of them, and be able to play soundly.
“It is Senior Night, so we will be recognizing our 13 seniors before the game and we are excited for them. I do think it is possible for us to get into the playoffs, but we can’t focus on that, we have to focus on Carroll.”
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