Elijah Davis wasn’t going to be stopped – not on the touchdown run, and especially not on the two-point conversion attempt.
Trailing 14-7, the Riverside running back ran up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown run with 2:20 left in the game to pull the Rebels to within one point of West St. John. Davis took a pitch to his right. With nowhere to go, he gave up a lot of ground while reversing field for the successful conversion that gave Riverside a 15-14 triumph Friday night in Reserve.
“The touchdown run by Elijah was outstanding, but the two-point play was even more special. We had nothing. He was all the way to the front (right) pylon and he reversed that thing all the way around to the other side. That was just great heart and effort by him,” Riverside coach Kevin Dizer said.
“The touchdown was crazy and the two-point conversion was even more crazy. I saw what the defense was giving me all night. They knew the (speed option) was coming,” said Davis.
Two plays following Davis’ touchdown, Andre Murphy came up with a diving interception, giving the ball back to the Rebels the ball at their own 49-yard line with 1:22 remaining in the game.
“They were trying me the whole game. I saw they had (Kaejean Kindrick) out and they were going to do a little hitch to get some yards. I just jumped it and made a play. I had to make a play for my team,” Murphy said.
“That was big. I didn’t want to celebrate too early. I knew we had to get another first down or we would have to punt it. We ended up having to punt, but our kids executed that well. We protected and punted the ball out of bounds,” said Dizer.
West St. John got the ball back at its own 44-yard line with 19 seconds left in the game.
On second down, Jaydon Hamilton hauled in a long pass from Ferdinand Young along the Riverside sideline was ruled incomplete.
“We look at the tape and you can clearly see the guy was in bounds when the guy caught the ball. The referee called it out,” a visibly upset West St. John coach Brandon Walters said.
Two plays later, a desperation throw by Young fell incomplete to end the game.
Along with the incomplete pass call, Walters also took issue with the play clock, which began to malfunction in the first quarter, causing the officials to keep track on the field.
“They killed the (play) clocks. They said we were going to hold one hand up, but it seems one hand goes up and down quick for us and they let them fix their plays, ‘check with me,’ sub somebody out and still not a delay of game,” said Walters.
The West St. John defense held the Rebels to 30 points below their season average of 45 points per game. The WSJ defense also came up with three interceptions, a fumble recovery, and twice came up with a turnover on downs.
“We’ve done that all year, and not just to Riverside. We did that to Salmen, the McDonogh 35, to everybody. Our defense can play. We play lights out defense. That’s why I say we play for shutouts because we do. We know what our guys are capable to do. We expect that from them. That’s not out of the norm for us. We expect that,” Walters said.
“It was a good game plan by West St. John. What goes through you mind is always win the game. As the head coach and offensive coordinator, you have to manage that. You can’t get caught up in the numbers and stuff like that,” Dizer said.
Both teams featured shutdown defenses all night.
“It’s good to see an old defensive struggle once in a while,” Dizer said. “As the offensive coordinator, we’ve got to do better.
That was a war. Hat’s off to West St. John. Them dudes came in here battling and they had us on the fricking ropes. They threw the knockout blow. We just got up. I thought that was an awesome football game.”
The potential knockout blow by West St. John that Dizer referred to came in the middle of the fourth quarter after the Rams pulled to within one point in the third quarter.
A Riverside pass was tipped forward by West St. John’s Kailep Edwards into the hands of Douglass Lawson, giving the Rams the ball at the Rebels’ 2-yard line. R’Khoby Robeson scored on the next play to make it 7-6.
After the West St. John came up with its second turnover on downs at the Rams’ 33-yard line, WSJ, facing third-and-17, scored on a 47-yard pass from Young to Hamilton. Hamilton hauled in the ball at the 30 and raced in for the score. A two-point conversion run by Robeson put the Rams on top 14-7 with 7:33 remaining in the game.
Davis’ touchdown run culminated a 70-yard drive and Dizer elected to go for the two-point conversion.
“We are getting out of here. I believe in our kids. We wanted to take the lead right there,” Dizer said of the decision to go for the two-point conversion.
The Rams forced three Riverside turnovers in the first half – two interceptions and a fumble – but West St. John failed to turn any into points.
Meanwhile, Riverside, known for big plays, came up with only two such plays, one setting up the only score of the first half.
With Gage Larvadain lined up at receiver, he hauled in a 32-yard pass from quarterback Luke Hymel down to the WSJ 22 in the second quarter.
Three plays later, Larvadain, in at quarterback, scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 7-0 Riverside lead with 4:25 remaining in the first half.
Riverside’s other long gainer was a 36-yard pass from Hymel to Terrell Hillard to the WSJ 22 with 2:01 left in the second quarter.
The Rebels failed to add to their lead when an Hymel pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by West St. John’s Devin Hall with 1:49 left in the first half.