The James River football team played a rare Thursday night game last week and the Knights found it to their liking. River took a 47-7 win over Parry McCluer in Buena Vista in the most lopsided Knights’ victory in the 53 games of the rivalry.
At one time the Blues dominated this rivalry like the hammer against the nail. It wasn’t until the 26th time they played that James River beat the Blues, in 1995, and then they lost the next five for a 1-29-1 record after 31 meetings. However, River has now won 14 of the past 17 meetings and last Thursday was the first time Knights coach Tim Jennings, a Parry McCluer graduate, took his team to Buena Vista to play.
The game was played on a Thursday due to lack of officials for Friday night games. River had a bye the week prior, so the short week wasn’t a problem. Parry McCluer had to play Riverheads on the Knights’ bye week, losing by 41 points to the Gladiators.
The fact that James River won this game wasn’t a big surprise. However, no one could have expected the margin of victory. No one except Jennings, that is.
“I knew we could do that,” he said. “I knew they’d be bigger, but I thought if we stayed disciplined we were fully capable of doing that.”
The score was just 6-0 in River’s favor after one period, as Connor Church scored on a seven-yard run with 2:10 remaining in the quarter. Church scored again on another seven-yard run 56 seconds into the second quarter, but the Blues answered with 3:01 until the half and it was 13-7 River.
The turning point of the game came right at the half. Following the Blues’ touchdown the Knights marched to the red zone and Church scored on the final play of the half, again from seven yards out for a 20-7 halftime lead. River then got the second half kickoff and Church returned it 70 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night.
From that point it was all River. The Knights stuffed the Blues on the ensuing series and, when they got the ball back, Zeal Hammons found Brian Moran for a 66-yard touchdown pass and a 34-7 lead.
“We scored three touchdowns in about two minutes of clock time,” said Jennings. “That put it away.”
Church added two more touchdowns of five- and 57-yard runs as River upped the lead to 47-7 by the end of the third quarter. The clock was running continuously at that point and it was just a matter of time before the Knights jumped back on the bus for a very joyful ride back to Springwood.
Church had a career night for River. He had 244 yards rushing on 24 carries and five rushing touchdowns. Add the kickoff return and he scored six TDs on the night. Connor had 336 all-purpose yards and he also had seven tackles on defense, including four solos and an interception.
“I thought we could run the ball at will, and we did,” said Jennings.
The Knights finished with 266 yards rushing and 108 passing. Hammons was six for nine for 108 yards, hitting Moran four times for 93 yards and Jackson Taylor twice for 15.
On defense, Colin Cook led with 10 tackles while Keegan Mundy, George Toliver, Gabe Staton and John Austin had eight each. River had eight tackles for losses and Levi Rock had a fumble recovery.
Now 1-1, the Knights will have their first home game of the season this Friday when they host Covington. That should be a lift for the Knights, who won’t lack for confidence after last week’s big win.
“We want to have confidence, but not cockiness,” said Jennings. “As for playing at home, we had two scrimmages at home and a great crowd at Parry McCluer last week so we should be ready to go.”
The Cougars are 0-3 with losses to Bath County, Staunton and Alleghany. Last week’s 30-6 loss to Alleghany was the last of a long-time rivalry as the two schools will be merged next year.