River Bluff traveled across town Friday night to take on rival Lexington High School for what has proven to be an exciting match-up over the last four seasons. The stands were packed, the River Bluff side decked out in black for their blackout and the home side dressed in white for their, you guessed it, white out. No one was sitting as the teams took the field for the opening kickoff, the air filled with cheers, chants, blaring horns, and drum cadences. This was exactly what was expected for the annual meeting between these two schools, which are only 11 miles apart. And after 3 quarters of play, this game was looking to be yet another wild ride between these 2 teams.
The Gators led nearly everywhere but the scoreboard at the end of the first half, dominating time of possession and total yardage. Costly penalties, turnovers, and a couple of poor choices did more damage to River Bluff than the Wildcats in the first half. Lexington was able to capitalize on their opportunities more often than River Bluff, though, and had to feel good going into the locker room at the half with the lead.
Moving to a more pass-heavy offense paid off early in the second half for Lexington, opening up the Gator defense somewhat and allowing the Wildcats to score off of drives instead of River Bluff miscues. Still, the Gators just wouldn’t go away, overcoming self-inflicted wounds and answering Lexington with a score of their own. In fact, River Bluff had momentum on their side as the teams headed into the 4th quarter.
Some big plays and big penalties gave the Wildcats all they needed to take control of the game in the final quarter. The Gators found themselves with a mountain too high to conquer late in the game, proving that giving good teams like Lexington too many chances will produce less than desirable results.
The Wildcats move to 5-2 on year and 2-1 in the region, while River Bluff falls to 2-4 and a 1-2 region record. The Gators will be back in action at home next Friday, October 6th for a Welcome Home showdown with White Knoll. Kickoff is set for 7:30, and it promises to be another fun-filled evening in The Swamp. Gator Nation, make plans to attend and support your Gators, while taking part in the Welcome Home festivities.
After taking the opening kick, River Bluff couldn’t generate a drive and punted the ball away to Lexington. The Wildcats followed suit and went 3 and out. On their punt to the Gators, though, the return backed up 14 yards and the Gators took over inside their own 30 yard line. River Bluff then quickly tacked on a personal foul which moved them even deeper into their own territory. Unable to move the ball, River Bluff lined up to punt. A low snap forced punter Braden Walker to touch the ground with his knee, marking the ball at the River Bluff 5 yard line.
Lexington proceeded to score on a 2-yard 4th down run by Mitchell McGee. Matthew Waller added the extra point, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
On River Bluff’s next possession, however, they found their stride and quarterback Braden Walker streaked down the field for a 65 yard touchdown run. A mishandled snap, however, forced an errant point-after try, bringing the score to 7-6 in favor of the home standing Wildcats.
Next, the Wildcats and Gators swapped 3-and-outs, and Lexington’s final drive of the quarter stalled as the second quarter began.
At the end of 1, the Gators trailed Lexington 7-6.
River Bluff seemed to get stronger on both sides of the ball as the second quarter progressed. Mishaps hurt them, however. Putting together an impressive grinding drive, River Bluff drove down to the Wildcat 26. Then, Walker’s 3rd down pass sailed a little high, though, and was intercepted by Parker VanCoutren, who returned it for a touchdown. The 74-yard pick-six extended the Wildcats lead to 14-6, with Allen’s kick.
The Gators took the kickoff and put together another long drive, utilizing the legs of Antonio Gantt, Jalen Weston , and Braden Walker. During the drive, Walker was ruled out-of-bounds on the LHS 42 after taking the snap and scampering for a long run into the end zone. The drive eventually stalled on the Wildcat 33 when River Bluff turned the ball over on a failed 4th down play.
Lexington took the ball over with 1:04 remaining in the half the clock ran out during their 4th down punt.
At the half, the Gators found themselves down 14-6 in a game they had clearly dominated up to that point.
Lexington came out after the half and on their first possession transitioned into an effective passing game, finally moving the ball. The Gator defense stiffened, though, and the Wildcats couldn’t convert on 4th down on the River Bluff 22.
The Gators had difficulty moving the ball and had to punt after 3 downs. A short punt only pushed the Wildcats back to the River Bluff 38. Lexington took advantage of a short field and scored a touchdown on a 4th down pass from Chase Crouch to his younger brother William Crouch. A high snap on the PAT prevented a successful kick and the Wildcats increased their lead to 20-6.
River Bluff found their stride once more on their next possession and drove the length of the field again. On what looked like a pounding touchdown run, officials initially ruled that Gator tailback Jalen Weston fumbled the ball while extending it across the goal line. The call was overturned, however, and the Gators got the ball on the Lexington 1 yard line. Weston was rewarded when his number was called on the next play, as he carried the ball into the end zone for River Bluff’s second touchdown on the night. Coltin Hallman’s PAT was good and the Gators pulled within 7 with the score 20-13.
River Bluff shut down Lexington on their next drive, and got the ball back after a Wildcat punt. As the quarter expired, the Gators prepared to take it from their own 19 to start the 4th quarter.
River Bluff could not mount a drive and ended up punting the ball away in the beginning of the 4th quarter. Lexington took over on their own 30 yard line. Just when it looked like the Gator defense would get another big stop, Akeem Nicholas took the 3rd down handoff and rushed for 25 yards to the River Bluff 15. Not long afterward, Jordan Hiller carried the ball in for the score. River Bluff blocked the extra point try and the Wildcats took a 26-13 lead.
Lexington snagged another interception on the next Gator possession and took over again in River Bluff territory. Another 3rd down stop got negated, this time by a late hit call, which gave the Wildcats the ball on the River Bluff 15. Nicholas rambled in from the 13 a couple of plays later, and Chandler Corley added a 2-point conversion, giving the home team a commanding 34-13 lead.
River Bluff came back to add another touchdown on their next drive on a 26-yard toss from Walker to Da’Mone Spencer. Hallman’s kick caromed off the upright, keeping the score 34-19 in favor of the Wildcats.
An odd personal foul call prior to the kickoff backed the Gators up to their own 25, adding even more danger to an impending onside kick. Trailing by 15 with less than 5 minutes to play, River Bluff attempted an onside kick, but was unable to recover it.
If there was any doubt that this was a rivalry game, that doubt was quickly removed as Lexington’s offensive starters took the field and pushed the ball down to the Gators’ 17 yard line, thanks in part to an unsportsmanlike penalty that strangely went only against River Bluff. After a couple of failed passing attempts, Lexington’s Chase Crouch punched the ball in from the 4 yard line. The PAT was good and the Wildcats added to their lead, making it 41-19 with less than a minute to play.
River Bluff finished up the game with a decent drive that saw the game clock tick down to all zeroes on an incomplete heave from freshman Camden Gray to Spencer.
Wildcats took the win at home, 41-19.