The James River football team is currently one spot out of the Class 2C playoffs after losing to Floyd County at home last Friday, 21-3. River is the ninth ranked team with eight teams making the playoffs.
The Knights are at Giles this Friday in what shapes up to be a game River can ill afford to lose. The Spartans are just 2-4 and they’re now a Class 1 school, so it’s a game the Knights figure to win. However, this is high school football and playing Giles is always a challenge.
“This isn’t one of their stronger teams but it’s a tough place to play and they run that single wing,” said River coach Tim Jennings. “You don’t see that offense very often so it’s difficult to play against, and almost impossible to simulate in practice. The key is to be disciplined on the defensive side of the ball.”
Last week the Knights missed out on a chance to pick up some good points when they lost to Floyd, the third ranked team in Class 2C. The game was closer than the 21-3 score indicates but, in the end, Floyd was able to get out of Springwood with the win.
“We moved the ball great between the 20s but when we got in the red zone we struggled to score,” said Jennings. “When the field shortens it hurts our passing game. We had some opportunities but their front is really good and we suffer from a lack of depth on the line. I like our starters but we don’t have a lot of depth behind them, and a couple injuries can really hurt.”
River drew first blood in this game when Maddox Potter kicked a 23-yard field goal with 2:50 remaining in the first quarter. That’s how it stood until just 27 seconds remained in the half as Matt Slusher took a 33-yard pass from Rylan Swortzel for a Buffalo score. The extra point failed due to a bad snap but Floyd led 6-3 at intermission when Potter had a 47-yard field goal attempt blocked on the last play of the half.
Potter was wide on a 40-yard field goal try in the third quarter that could have tied the game. The Buffaloes then made it a two-score game on a one-yard run by Swortzel late in the third quarter and a two-point conversion made it 14-3. The Knights were still right in it until just under two minyard run, and the conversion kick accounted for the 21-3 final.
The Buffaloes finished with 258 yards of offense, with 184 rushing and 74 passing. River had just 22 yards rushing but threw for 92 for a total of 114 yards of offense. Floyd had 17 first downs to eight for River and fewer penalty yards, 30 to 60 for the Knights.
Zeal Hammons had a good night passing, hitting 16 of 21 attempts. Brian Moran caught six for 45 yards, Levi Rock had four receptions for 24 and Jake Benson, Trey Taylor and Connor Church had two catches each.
On defense John Austin led the Knights with 19 tackles. Benson had 15, George Toliver had 10, Gabe Staton had nine, Landon Barger and Colin Cook had eight each and Canaan Clark had seven. Moran had an interception and a forced fumble.
“We couldn’t get a stop in the fourth quarter,” said Jennings. “I thought our defense played pretty well against a good team but the time of possession was huge as they controlled the ball in the second half.”