Rebels start quick, roll by Rams

Published 2:58 am Saturday, September 20, 2014


EDGARD — Before Riverside’s rivalry clash with West St. John began, RA athletic director Timmy Byrd mused that the Rebels defense was much better than most believed.

They certainly set out to prove that opinion correct over the next four quarters of play.

Riverside (3-0) forced five West St. John (2-1) turnovers, and defensive tackle Richie George scored on a fumble recovery as the Rebels rolled past the host Rams, 44-21.

Safety Kendall Martin intercepted West St. John quarterback Jermoine Green on the first play from scrimmage, setting up Riverside’s first touchdown. It set the tone for the game.

“I told coach (Riverside’s Bill Stubbs) before the game I was going to make some big plays tonight,” Martin said. “I read their quarterback’s shoulders on that throw. He was trying to go to one of their best receivers. I got out in front of it and ended up picking it off. It got us off and running.”

There were plenty of fireworks in this one. Riverside’s Herb McGee caught five passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 25 more yards. West St. John’s Morell Bartholomew caught seven passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Two Rebel tailbacks topped 100 yards, with Brandon Sanders rushing for 154 yards and Hardell Mack churning out 114 more. Each scored a touchdown.

Martin forced two turnovers, while George was the early star of the game, scoring on a short 3-yard touchdown pass from the offensive backfield before scooping and scoring on a fumble forced by a Brandon Hymel sack.

Ronald Dumas seemed to get the Rams off to a positive start after returning the opening kickoff to the Rams’ 48. But on West St. John’s opening play, Green targeted Jabari Walters over the middle and Martin cut off the throw, intercepting and returning the pickoff to the Rams’ 17.

“We had an open receiver there and just missed him,” West St. John coach Robert Valdez said. “We’ve got a young quarterback, and there’s going to be growing pains.”

Riverside scored in two plays, Jordan Loving connecting with McGee on an 11-yard slant to make it 7-0.

“We’d gotten off to a slow start in previous games,” McGee said. “Today, we set out to start fast. We got off to that quick start and kept it going.”

Riverside held WSJ to a three-and-out and capitalized on a short Rams’ punt, taking over at the WSJ 35. This time, Riverside overcame a series of penalties, wiping out a third and 19 on an 18-yard Loving pass to Darrion Cook and a 12-yard Mack run on fourth down. Loving dialed up the 325-pound George, who juggled the ball and secured the catch out of the backfield for a score to make it 14-0.

“That’s part of our short yardage package,” Stubbs said. “I’m glad he caught that ball. We work on that and practice it.”

Another three-and-out led to another quick Rebels drive, this one two plays, as Sanders made a nice open field move to get loose for a 65-yard touchdown run.

It was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, but the Rams capitalized on a Rebels turnover on special teams — a short punt touched a Riverside player — and got its offense rolling for the first time all night. WSJ marched down to the RA 13 via the run and capped the drive through the air, Green hitting Bartholomew on a jump ball to make it 21-7.

Following, it was the Rebels’ turn again to cash in on a Rams’ turnover, this time a fumble at the WSJ 47. A Sanders 17-yard run helped set up a 1-yard Mack score, capping a seven-play drive with 4:41 left in the first half.

On the Rams’ next play, Hymel got loose on a blitz and hit Green, jarring the ball loose for George to scoop and score, making it a 34-7 lead.

“You can’t have five turnovers and expect to win a game of pitty-pat, let alone beat a good football team,” Valdez said. “Credit to Riverside, they set a physical tone.”

West St. John scored on a 38-yard Green pass to Bartholomew and Riverside added a Tyler Gauthier field goal before halftime, setting a 37-13 halftime score.

Tempers flared early in the second half. After a Von Julien kickoff return for an apparent Rebels touchdown was called back for holding, a skirmish on the Rams’ first second half possession resulted in the ejection of three players, one Rebel and two Rams. West St. John went on to score on Green’s third touchdown pass of the night, this one to Walters, and a two-point conversion run made it 37-21.

But Riverside answered with a finishing blow on its next possession, Loving finding McGee for a 38-yard touchdown reception to all but ice the win.

Stubbs said he was pleased with the victory but was subdued after the game, echoing his thoughts following Riverside’s win over Loranger last week: he wants to see a more focused Rebels team for four quarters.

“Don’t get me wrong, West St. John is a very good football team,” Stubbs said. “They’re going to win a whole lot of games. But in the second half, we were sloppy. You act like the game is in hand … that approach is going to cost us down the road. If we don’t fix it, it will come back and bite us.”