Riverside finishes regular season in style over Northern
Riverside finished its regular season in style with a 41-16 win over Northern as senior running back Joel Evans ran for 273 yards on 20 carries and four touchdowns.
Evans scored on runs of 84, 75, 21 and 15 yards, adding to his single-season school record for touchdowns to make it 26. He also added to his single-season rushing record which now stands at 2,367 yards.
The career rushing mark is 3,178 yards by Chauncey Burgess and it will take a deep playoff run by the Pirates for Evans to close in on that mark.
Both teams had secured playoff berths heading into the game but seeding priority was on the line, along with bragging rights in their rivalry.
Riverside coach David Hackney said he liked his team's momentum after the victory. The Pirates (8-3, 4-1) made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when they made it all the way to the 4-A championship game.
"We're not satisfied," Hackney said. "We worked hard all season to get to this point. We've got more work to do in the playoffs. We want to go far."
Northern coach R.J. WIlson said his team should be able to regroup after the loss by focusing on the opportunity offered by the playoffs. The Knights (3-8, 3-2) were winless against non-conference opponents but rebounded to win three games in the PAC-6.
"We've got to erase everything because it's another season," Wilson said. "We did it going into the conference season. They learned from everything that happened before conference play. And aside from tonight, I thought we had a pretty good conference season."
The teams fought nerves early in the contest, resulting in some unexpected plays.
Riverside got a safety to open the scoring in the game when Northern was unable to execute a punt deep in their own territory. Northern punter Dillion Leovic was tackled in the end zone after the snap sailed over his head.
After Northern's defense forced Riverside to punt on the ensuing possession, the Knights drove to the Pirate 21 but had to settle for a field goal attempt. T.J. Milby's attempt was blocked.
But Milbey came back and converted a 25-yard field goal to give the Knights a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter.
Riverside's offense continued to sputter until Evans finally broke free. His 84-yard touchdown run with 5:13 left in the first half came one play after the Pirates lost 23 yards on a bad pitch exchange between quarterback Diante Strothers and Jonathan Rhew.
"The line made a good push and I just saw the gap and I hit it," Evans said. "From there, I just reacted."
Evans faked out two Northern defenders as he crossed into Knights' territory and then sprinted to the end zone for his longest scoring run of the season to make it 8-3. Riverside's two-point attempt failed.
Evans' previous long run was 81 yards at Cleveland in a game in which he scored six touchdowns. Friday's game was the fourth time this season he's scored at least four touchdowns.
Northern briefly took a 9-8 lead when Kendrick Bailey scored on a four-yard run that was set up by a 43-yard fumble return by Micah Sessoms with 3:40 left in the half.
But Riverside retook the lead with a 20-yard field goal by Micah Goodwin with four seconds remaining in the second quarter.
"At the beginning, I think we were all wound tight," Hackney said. "We were trying to force it and we made some mistakes early. The halftime message was that we just needed to settle down."
And once the Pirates settled down, there was little Northern could do to stop Riverside from running. The Pirates finished with 409 total yards with 386 coming on the ground. Riverside had 257 rushing yards in the second half.
Cameron Roane added a 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for Riverside.
Northern's offense finally clicked in the closing minutes of the game as it put together an 86-yard touchdown drive that was capped with an 11-yard pass from Zaaqhai Mann to Kelvin Belle with 11 seconds left in the game.
RIVERSIDE 41, NORTHERN 16
Northern 0 9 0 7 — 16
Riverside 2 9 23 7 — 41
R—Safety, punter tackled in end zone
N—FG T.J. Milby 25
R—Joel Evans 84 run (pass failed)
N—Kendrick Bailey 4 run (kick failed)
R—FG Micah Goodwin 20
R—Evans 21 run (Goodwin kick)
R—Evans 15 run (kick failed)
R—FG Goodwin 23
R—Evans 75 run (Goodwin kick)
R—Cameron Roane 24 run (Goodwin kick)
N—Kelvin Belle 11 pass from Zaaqhai Mann (Milby kick)
RUSHING — Northern, Alphonso Gbojueh 11-60, Zaaqhai Mann 18-14, Deshon Holmes 3-22, Dominek McNeill 3-10, Kendrick Bailey 1-4, Marcus Starr 1-1, Team 2-(minus-19). Riverside, Joel Evans 20-273, Jonathan Rhew 2-8, Darryl Smith 2-3, Shalom Williams 3-7, Diante Strothers 14-62, Cameron Roane 2-26, Clark Hollar 2-9
PASSING — Northern: Mann 9-22-92-1. Riverside: Strothers 2-7-23-0.
RECEIVING — Northern, Jalon Nixon 6-62, Jonathan Branch 2-19, Kelvin Belle 1-11. Riverside, Rhew 2-23.
Records—Northern 3-8, 3-2 PAC-6 4-A; Riverside 8-3, 4-1 PAC-6.