River gets first victory, 41-0

HANNIBAL – Mike Flannery walked into his team’s weight room for his postgame presser Friday night and a sense of relief overwhelmed him.

”We really needed this,” he said after watching his River football team blank Rosecrans 41-0 before a large Homecoming turnout at Flannery Field for its first victory of the season.

”Our people waited six weeks for this and I’m sure there will be a lot of happy faces out there (this) morning.”

After playing its home games at Magnolia’s Alumni Field last season due to construction, Friday night’s triumph marked the Pilots’ first victory at the venerable venue since a 29-8 whitewashing of Buckeye Trail on October 21, 2011.

”It feels good,” Flannery said. ”Our kids deserve this … our seniors deserve this.”

One of those seniors – Bryce Cross – led the way with a big night on both sides of the ball. The 5-11, 170-pound stalwart ran for a pair of touchdowns, caught a TD pass and posted a defensive score when he caught a blocked punt in the end zone. He also picked off a pair of passes.

”He had a big night and he deserves it,” Flannery said. ”He’s one of those guys who worked hard all summer long and, when the season was over last year, he was right back in the weight room when he was allowed to be.

”He’s helped set the benchmark for the younger guys. Hard work pays off and it showed (Friday). He can play very well on both sides of the ball.”

Flannery said Cross’ performance was emblematic of the other seniors.

”When you’re 0-5 a lot of kids will throw in the towel and say (the season’s) a wash,” he said. ”These kids have never done that and that’s the type of character they showed (Friday).

”They know we have never given up on them and vice versa.”

The Pilots posted their first shutout since blanking Fort Frye in the 2011 season opener and held the Bishops (0-6) to 117 yards of total offense. River picked off Rosecrans quarterback Daniel Clifford five times.

”We’re young on defense, but they played one heck of a game,” Flannery noted.

Senior Jordan Sapp got the ball rolling for the Pilots with a four-yard touchdown run on River’s opening drive. The first of five Colton Wright PATs made the score 7-0. The big play on the drive was a 15-yard strike from sophomore quarterback Joey Flannery to Brok Cross that became a 30-yard play following a roughing the passer flag on the Bishops.

River forced Rosecrans to punt from its own 11 on its first possession. Lane Dailey took the snap and had his kick blocked by River’s Brett Rosen. The ball flew into the air and was caught by Bryce Cross for the score that helped make the score 14-0 with 7:06 left in the opening quarter.

Bryce Cross picked off his first pass moments later. He finished what he started with a 3-yard run that helped make the score 21-0 with 9:42 left in the half.

Bryce Cross was just getting warmed up.

He thwarted the Bishops’ ensuing drive, picking off a Clifford pass and returning it 46 yards to the Rosecrans 10. He carried the ball three straight times, the final jaunt a 2-yard one that helped the scoreboard read 28-0.

If that wasn’t enough, he showcased his receiving skills later in the quarter when he hauled in a 57-yard scoring strike from Joey Flannery that made the score 35-0 with a few ticks showing on the first-half clock.

Sapp bookended the scoring with a 30-yard scamper late in the third quarter.

All told, River was balanced offensively with 188 yards rushing and 145 yards through the air.

”We think we’re better than a 1-5 team,” Mike Flannery said. ”We’re always trying to find positives and that’s what we’ve done all year.

”We’ll just have to see what happens the next four weeks.”

River goes for two straight next week at Bridgeport.

At halftime, Rosen and Landyn Ramsay were named Mr. and Miss River, respectively.