NELSONVILLE, Ohio — To whom it may concern, these Raiders are for real.
The River Valley football team sent shock waves throughout southeastern Ohio Friday night following a 23-12 victory over host Nelsonville-York in a Week 4 Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division contest at Boston Field in Athens County.
The Raiders (4-0, 1-0 TVC Ohio) found themselves in a 12-0 hole during the early moments of the second quarter, but the guests responded with 23 unanswered points over the final 25 minutes of regulation.
The key moment for RVHS, however, came just before halftime, as the Silver and Black came away with their first points following a touchdown run by Dayton Hardway. The senior scampered 11 yards to pay dirt with just 3.6 seconds left, allowing the guests to enter the break trailing 12-7.
That momentum shift was clearly evident in the second half as Mark Wray returned the opening kickoff 80 yards, giving River Valley a permanent lead of 14-12 with 11:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Justin Arrowood added a one-yard TD run with 3:51 left in the third for a 20-12 advantage, then Wray capped the scoring with a 33-yard field goal at the 9:36 mark of the fourth — making it a 23-12 contest.
After rallying from a 12-point deficit and also holding the perennial-power Buckeyes scoreless in the second half, at Boston Field, RVHS coach Jerrod Sparling was pretty upbeat in regards to how much his kids have grown this fall.
“To beat a program like Nelsonville-York, I can remember seeing them in the playoffs when I was 10 years old in the mid-90s. I have so much respect for coach Boston and what they’ve done there,” Sparling said. “To beat them, especially coming back, giving up 12 points and having to rally back, it shows a lot about our leadership and our older guys. Our hats off to them.”
Jakob Talbert started the scoring with a three-yard run at the 11:55 mark of the second quarter, then Chris Cook hauled in a 96-yard TD pass from Hunter Edwards with 8:15 left in the half for a 12-0 Buckeye advantage.
RVHS managed a 17-15 edge in first downs, despite a dozen less offensive snaps. NYHS claimed a 324-262 overall advantage in total yards and both teams committed one turnover in the contest.
The Buckeyes were penalized 15 times for 136 yards, as where the Raiders committed only five penalties for 45 yards.
River Valley produced 159 rushing yards on 34 carries and added another 103 yards through the air. NYHS, on the other hand, had 160 passing yards and 45 rushes for 164 yards.
Justin Arrowood led the Raider rushing attack with 62 yards on eight carries, followed by Wray with 16 totes for 55 yards.
Dayton Hardway was 8-of-16 passing for 103 yards and also ran for 30 yards on five tries. Kirk Morrow led the RVHS wideouts with five catches for 97 yards.
The Silver and Black, who own a pair of shutouts this fall, are outscoring opponents by a 133-25 overall margin. The Raiders, who were 5-5 a year ago, also secured only their second four-win campaign since 2004.
Alex Mount led the Buckeyes’ ground game with 23 carries for 86 yards, followed by Noah Andrews with 33 yards on five attempts.
Edwards was 10-of-17 passing for 160 yards, throwing one touchdown and one interception. Mount hauled in four passes for 44 yards and Moore had the one grab for 96 yards.
The Buckeyes (1-3, 0-1) have now dropped three straight overall decisions, including a pair of double-digit home losses in the last two weeks. The Raiders currently own a five-game winning streak and also picked up their first-ever league road win as members of the TVC Ohio.
River Valley returns to action Friday when it hosts Meigs in a pivotal Week 5 TVC Ohio Division contest at 7:30 p.m.
Kevin Wiseman of the Athens Messenger contributed to this report. Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.