The James River football players knew they were decided underdogs against a one loss Bobcat team in Radford last week, but the Knights figured they had a puncher’s chance to pull off the upset. Unfortunately for the Knights, they never got in a good blow and saw their season come to an end with a 42-7 loss last Thursday.
River needed a win in that game for a chance to make the Region 2C playoffs, which open this week. Radford squashed those hopes early with 21 first quarter points and the Bobcats went on to a 42-0 lead by the half. The clock ran continuously in the second half as River avoided the shutout with a 15-yard TD run by Connor Church in the third quarter.
“Turnovers were huge,” said River coach Tim Jennings, as the Bobcats intercepted three passes and recovered a River fumble. “You can’t turn the ball over if you want to compete with a team as good as Radford. I thought we had a good game plan, but the turnovers killed us.”
The total yardage wasn’t an indicator of the score. River had 121 yards rushing and 86 passing for 209 total yards, while Radford had 54 rushing and 174 passing for 228. Radford had nine first downs to River’s eight.
Church led the rushing attack for the Knights with 63 yards on 12 carries while Colin Cook ran once for 34 yards and quarterback Zeal Hammons had eight rushes for 21. Hammons was 10 for 26 passing with Jake Benson catching three balls for 43 yards. Church and Levi Rock had two catches each and Cook, Hammons (from Brian Moran) and Trey Taylor had one catch apiece.
On defense, Benson and Gabe Staton led with nine tackles each while John Austin and Hammons had seven each and Rock had six. Gavin Binns had two tackles for losses.
The win lifted Radford to 9-1 on the season and the Bobcats are the top seed in this week’s playoffs. River finished 10th in the region at 3-7.
The Knights will lose a solid class of 13 seniors to graduation. Jennings is excited about the freshman class but numbers are low in the sophomore and junior classes.
“We need to resurrect our recreation program,” he said. “We need to get more kids playing football and keep them in the program.”