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River subdues Magnolia for third victory

HANNIBAL – For one quarter Friday night momentum meant everything to Magnolia, which outscored cross-river rival River 14-13 in the second chapter and trailed just 20-14 at halftime.

But momentum can be a fickle thing and as quickly as Coach Dave “Doc” Chapman’s Blue Eagles gained it in the second quarter it was quickly gone when the two team returned to the field in the third quarter as the Pilots pulled away in the second half.

Seniors Carter Dennis and Michael Johnson and junior Avery Creamer each scored a pair of touchdowns and River scored three times in a span of 3:21 of the third quarter to help turn a close game into a 47-14 romp on the turf at Martin Flannery Field.

“We were honestly trying to work on some things that might help us down the road in the second quarter, and with that we ended up losing momentum and let them hang around too long,” River Head Coach Mike Flannery admitted. “But credit Doc and his team, they are still young, and they fought hard out there. They are eventually going to get things going.”

Things didn’t start great for either team with Magnolia (0-3) punting twice, throwing an interception and giving the ball up on downs on its initial four possessions while River (3-1), which won for the third consecutive outing, fumbled and turned the ball over on downs the first two times it had the ball on offense.

The Pilots, however, broke the scoring drought on their third try. After a pair of incompletions by sophomore quarterback Brody Lollathin, River broke out a little trickery with Creamer appearing to be running off the field, only to stop before the play started and with no defender around him took a pass from Lollathin and rolled 38 yards down the sidelines at 3:09 of the first. Zac Hocutt split the uprights for a 7-0 lead.

Flannery’s squad took over again late in the quarter at Big Blue’s 45 with a 30-yard bomb from Lollathin to Jake Rose eventually putting the ball on the two. Creamer took the ball in from a yard-out on the first play of the second quarter and while the PAT failed it was 13-0.

After the hosts turned the ball over on downs at Magnolia’s 27 the visitors got going thanks to a 73-yard burst down the far sidelines by senior Jason Beisel, who was eventually hauled down inside the one-yard line. It took three more plays before Charlie Powell busted in from a yard out at 5:50 with Brendan Mirandy’s point-after cutting the margin to 13-7.

Dennis’ 16-yard run up-the-middle untouched at 4:01 was set-up by Johnson’s kickoff return to midfield before a short punt with 1:20 to go in the half led to a seven-yard touchdown connection from Mirandy to Silas McKeever with 10 seconds showing in the half to make it 20-14 at the break.

“We told the kids at the half that momentum is a big thing in high school sports and the white team (Magnolia) definitely had it,” Chapman commented. “But you have to play two halves and we figured the first six minutes or so of the third was going to decide things and it did.”

River returned to the field after the half and imposed its will on the Blue Eagles with an eight-yard drive that featured Dennis running the ball on every play, going 57 yards in with a four-yard burst finishing things off at the 8:50 mark.

A short punt after a quick three-and-out had the Pilots starting on the enemy 26 and Johnson did the honors from seven yards away at 6:37. Just over a minute later the first of two Chase Lawrence interceptions turned into a 38-yard return for a score and in the blink of an eye the lead had ballooned to 40-14 midway through the third.

“They came out pounding the football and things just started snowballing on us,” Chapman added. But I am proud of how hard my kids played. River is a good football team and you can’t turn the ball over against good teams, it’s going to get you every time.”

The Pilots capped the scoring at 9:56 of the fourth on Johnson’s second touchdown, this time from eight yards away.

“We came out and answered their second quarter momentum swing with a planned drive featuring Carter (Dennis),” Flannery said. “Magnolia had a good game plan and we gave them the ball too close to the goal line a couple times, but we got some young kids into the game early and tried some things.

“This is three wins a row and we have some momentum there now, but we know we have a very critical test coming up with Barnesville next week. We know how good they are, and we will need to be ready for them.”

Dennis finished with 101 rushing stripes while Lollathin threw for 160 and a score.

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