River Valley Rides Hot Start To Victory

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The River Valley Raiders (7-2, 4-2) scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, which is more than the Athens Bulldogs (5-4, 3-2) had first downs. River Valley’s quick start kept enough distance between them and the Bulldogs to seal the Raiders 35-21 victory Friday night.

The Raiders marched down the field and straight into their end zone on their first three drives while the Bulldogs could not score until their final drive of the half.

With 49 seconds to go in the half, Athens finally put some points on the board to gain some momentum after a crucial mistake by River Valley. It was fourth and goal when the Raiders stopped the Bulldogs, but with 13 men on the field, the Raider’s penalty would give Athens the first down. Zacciah Saltzman would do what he has done all year and that is score a touchdown on the very next play. The score became 21-7 and it looked like Athens was about to fight back into the game.

This was not the case. Dayton Hardway drove his team down the field in 45 seconds, threw a dime to Kirk Morrow seconds before halftime. River Valley now led 28-7 and its intensity would follow them into the second half, propelling them to the win.

River Valley’s defense had a hard task against Athens: stop Saltzman. They had a game plan, and they executed that game plan to perfection. They made Athens’ most impactful player virtually irrelevant in the first half and only gave up 138 yards to Saltzman the entire game.

As well as the Raiders’ defense played, their offense could not be stopped. Dayton Hardway picked apart the Bulldog’s defense, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns with his only fault being a single interception. His favorite target of the night, Kirk Morrow hauled in 10 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

If Hardway was not throwing the ball, he was giving it to Mark Wray who ran for 103 yards with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Wray’s 4.9 yards per carry made Athens pick its poison, either be ran over or have the ball flying over its heads.

The Raiders came charging out of the gate, stomping on the Bulldogs and in a blink of an eye, they were up 21-0. Athens did not roll over though, as they fought hard in the second half.

The victory gives River Valley its highest single season win total in the last 20 years while it eliminates Athens’ chance of a share of the TVC-Ohio title.

River Valley ends the regular season on the road next week when they travel to Shadyside. Athens will wrap up the season at home against Nelsonville-York.