West St. John at Riverside

Published 7:45 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013


RESERVE — All night long, West St. John coach Robert Valdez proved himself a willing risk taker in his playcalling. But in the end, it was Riverside coach Bill Stubbs’ unconventional decision that all but sealed a victory for his team.

Facing a fourth-and-1 from his own 19 with 2:57 left and RA leading by three, Stubbs’ elected to go for it, calling upon mammoth defensive tackle Richie George to take his first career carry. George ran for two yards to convert and the Rebels milked the clock from there, sealing a thrilling 35-32 victory at home over the explosive Rams.

“I told coach, ‘Give me the ball and I’ve got you,’” said George, RA’s 350 pound nose tackle. “We’ve got one yard to go.”

Said Riverside quarterback Deuce Wallace, “It was do or die. I knew we were gonna go for it. I had all the faith in the world in Richie. You can’t stop him if he’s coming straight at you. I knew he’d get the job done and he did.”

Brandon Hymel came up big with two interceptions, the second of which came at the Rebels’ 5-yard line late and snuffed out the final Rams’ drive of the contest.

It was redemption for the defensive back after a Riverside punt careened off his leg in the second half , leading to a WSJ recovery and eventual touchdown.

“I was so, so proud of him,” said Stubbs. “We always preach, if you make a mistake, don’t hang your head. Shake it off, come out and make a play. And look what happens. I couldn’t be prouder.”

It was a night that featured wild momentum swings from one side to the other from the opening kickoff — literally. The Rams (2-1) attempted an onside kick to begin the game, but Riverside recovered. That burst of confidence for the Rebels was short-lived, as the Rams intercepted a Deuce Wallace pass on the opening drive of the game, scored, then recovered a second onside kick en route to taking a 14-0 lead.

And away they went.

“When you go on the road against a great team, you want to get off to a fast start and we did,” said Valdez. “We feel like if we could have gotten up by one more score, three touchdowns, then maybe they have to rely on the pass more. They came with a good plan, to try and slow it down.’

Wallace passed for 207 yards and three scores for Riverside (2-1), hooking up with Von Julien on two of those. Herb McGee hauled in four receptions for a game-high 130 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown that put the Rebels on the board for the first time.

The Rebels rallied after that tough start to lead 28-26 at halftime, beginning with McGee’s 70-yard reception. One of the first big momentum swings came on a forced fumble deep in Rebel territory by defensive end Joe Anderson, who stripped Rams’ tailback Jeremy Jackson with WSJ leading 20-14. Xavier Ray scooped the ball and returned it into the Rams’ redzone, setting up a Sanders touchdown for a go-ahead RA score.

West St. John tailback Jeremy Jackson dominated in his time on the field, rushing for 170 yards on 18 carries and scoring twice. 

But Jackson didn’t finish the game, leaving early in the third quarter after suffering a shoulder injury on a tackle by George.

“We’re gonna have to take a look at it,” said Valdez.

The Rams weren’t finished in the least, though, without their top offensive threat. Bradley Borne and Lamore Boudoin stepped in and immediately began to churn out yardage after Jackson’s injury. Borne ripped off runs of 27 and 41 yards on the Rams’ next drive, the second of those big gains a touchdown run that made it a 28-26 Rebels’ lead.

Riverside led by nine with 1:44 left in the third after Wallace’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Julien. The Rebels forced a Rams’ three-and-out to follow that, but then came the Rams’ recovery of the punt that touched Hymel. Riverside held again, but the Rams’ faked a punt for the second time on the night and Howard found Kylon Adams wide open down the sideline for a 61-yard score, making it a 35-32 Rebel lead.

“We’re gonna give our kids every chance, every opportunity to win,” said Valdez. “That last fake punt gave us a chance to win the game. We’ve let it be known, we’ll run that stuff anytime, anyplace, if we feel like it’ll give us a better chance.”

But the Rebels’ began to make critical plays on defense. The Rams’ next drive was stopped when Curtis Thomas made a leaping interception of Howard.

The Rams returned the favor as Riverside attempted to put things away when Koi Rainey intercepted Wallace with 7:55 left, returning it to the RA 47. Howard and Borne connected to convert a third-and-20, and with 5:11 the Rams faced fourth-and-seven from the 14. Hymel came up with the biggest takeaway of the night.

Brandon Sanders scored two touchdowns for Riverside before leaving the game with an injury. Howard tossed two scores, one on an 18-yard play to Jackson on fourth-and-13 and the other on a 20-yard pass to Morell Bartholomew.

Anderson collected three sacks for the Rebels. West St. John’s Brandon Matthews sacked Wallace twice.

After Sanders’ injury, tailback DeAndre Wilson controlled the pace of the game in the fourth quarter, closing out the game with a pair of first down runs after George’s conversion.

The Rams were penalized 14 times for 121 yards.

“It is what it is,” said Valdez. “You have to overcome it.”

Stubbs said that his team’s resilience after the Rams’ early surge points to good things ahead.

“There was no panic,” said Stubbs. “West St. John is a very, very good football team. They caught us with our pants down on a few occasions, especially on special teams. They made some gutsy calls and hats off to them.’</p>

“But our kids responded. They’re coming of age. They’re at the point where we can bounce back from a bad play or bad series, come back and make the crucial play. That’s how you win.”