The James River football team defeated Covington last Friday in the season opener, 17-7, and will try to keep the ball rolling this week. The Knights will play host to an undefeated Stuarts Draft team Friday night in Springwood.
Stuarts Draft comes to town at 3-0 with wins over William Monroe(41-0), Waynesboro(35-14), and Greenbriar East of West Virginia last Friday, 14-3. The Cougars have a 4-1 edge in games against James River, with the previous meeting in Stuarts Draft in 2019.
“They’re always good,” said River coach Tim Jennings. “They made it to the third round of the playoffs last year, and the year before, they lost to Appomattox in the final(48-41). They graduated a lot, but their scheme will keep them in the game.”
The Cougars like to run the ball, and they do so often.
“They’re similar to Buffalo Gap and all those teams in that part of the state,” said Jennings. “They want to run the ball. They’ll run it at least 90 percent of the time.”
River has also had some success running the ball, and last week against Covington, the Knights ran for 197 yards while holding visiting Covington to 64 yards on the ground. Connor Church had another big game with 118 yards rushing on 20 carries, just two yards shy of averaging six yards per attempt.
River needed every yard as this was a close game, with the Knights leading just 7-0 at the half. It was scoreless until 1:04 remaining until intermission when Colin Cook ran one in from 17 yards out, and Maddox Potter converted the extra point kick.
River made it 10-0 four minutes into the second half when Potter nailed a 40-yard field goal for the Knights. Then, Church broke loose for a 41-yard TD with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter and River seemed to have things well in hand with a 17-0 lead.
At that point, the Cougars rallied, scoring on a 23-yard TD pass with two minutes left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 17-7. The Knights defense then stiffened and held off the visitors for the rest of the game to preserve the win and lift River to 2-1.
“Our defense kept us in the game,” said Jennings. “When Connor busted the long one, it looked like we were going to roll, but when we got up 17-0, we coasted, and you can’t do that. Coach (Covington’s Chris) Jones is very creative, and he had answers to everything we did. We couldn’t do a lot of things we were able to do against Parry McCluer.”
The Knights struggled to pass the ball against Covington, as Zeal Hammons completed just six of 18 passes for 66 yards and an interception. Brian Moran had three receptions, Jake Benson had two, and Levi Rock had one.
“We had too many drops,” said Jennings.
Defensively, Benson led the Knights with 11 tackles while John Austin had 10 and George Toliver had nine. Church and Moran had six each, and Church also had a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and two pass breakups. Benson had an interception, Toliver had a fumble recovery, and Cook had two tackles for losses.
“We didn’t execute as well as I would have liked, but it was a win, and we’ll take it,” said Jennings.