The Riverside Academy Rebels likely wouldn’t have minded if Rummel’s Patrick Vanderbrook had decided to get one extra week of rest.
In a game that appeared to be headed for overtime, Vanderbrook booted a career-best 45-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the game to give the Raiders a 37-34 triumph, spoiling the home debut of first-year Riverside coach Kevin Dizer on Friday night in Reserve.
“He missed two extra points so we chose not to rush him because I didn’t want to chance getting a roughing-the-kicker and moving it up. I didn’t want to chance an offside moving it up. I kind of said, ‘this kid’s got to make this 45 yarder,’ and sure enough, he did. Hat’s off to him,” Dizer said.
The junior kicker had bee out of action for three weeks after tearing his sartorius muscle.
“I’d like to thank snapper Aaron Thomas and holder Tyler Cook. He (Cook) spun the ball at the end to give me an opportunity. Thanks to Coach (Jay) Roth and the offense,” Vanderbrook said.
For a while, it looked like anything but a game that might go to overtime.
Riverside (0-3) gave the Raiders (2-1) everything they could handle until Rummel built a 34-21 lead. The Raiders were milking the clock midway in the fourth quarter behind their powerful running attack. With Rummel facing second down at the Rebels’ 15, RA defender Jaylen Watkins intercepted a Chandler Fields interception and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown to narrow the Riverside deficit to 34-28 with 5:31 left in the game.
“It was a big play. I had to make it. We were down 34-21 and I had to make the big play,” Watkins.
The Watkins brothers – senior Jaylen and sophomore Ahmonte – practically kept the Rebels in the game themselves.
In the first half, Ahmonte returned an interception 99 yards for a Rebels touchdown.
“It was a momentum shift we needed and I just happened to be the person to make that play,” Ahmonte Watkins said.
In the latter stages of the game, Jaylen tried to match his younger brother.
“We are always competing. I had to get it. The next one, it will be 100 yards,” said Jaylen Watkins.
The pass play, Roth said, was a poor decision on his part.
“I almost cost my team the game tonight. We are going to go up by three touchdowns and we hadn’t thrown the ball in two-and-a-half quarters and I stuck my big nose in play-calling and it almost cost us the game,” the Rummel coach said.
Riverside got the ball back at its own 23 with 2:17 left in the game and needed only four plays to score. From the Rummel 39, Rebels quarterback Gage Larvadain tossed to Herbert Keys. Keys caught the ball in stride at the 25-yard line, side-stepped a potential defender and raced the remaining yards to tie the game with 1:23 remaining in the contest.
The extra point would have given Riverside the lead, but a bad snap on the conversion attempt didn’t even allow Colton Wilson and opportunity to kick the ball.
Tied 34-34, the game seemed destined for overtime. Rummel started its final drive at its own 20 with 1:23 remaining and only one time-out. The Raiders kept the ball on the ground, eventually reaching the Riverside 28 before Chandler spiked the ball to top the clock to set up Vanderbrook’s game-winning kick.
“You noticed we didn’t throw a pass,” Roth pointed out.
Rummel used long, methodical drives while Riverside scored in quick-strike fashion with help from its defense as the Raiders took a 20-14 halftime lead.
Rummel was leading 6-0 and marching once again when Ahmonte Watkins intercepted a Fields pass just in front of the goal line. Using his sprinter speed, Watkins blazed 99 yards for a touchdown. Wilson’s extra point gave Riverside a one-point edge with 1:04 left in the opening quarter.
Two plays in the ensuing possession, Chandler was stripped of the ball, with Chamar Jackson recovering at the Raiders’ 11-yard line.
Kash Foley raced wide left on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage to give RA a 14-6 lead.
A pair of Jaelen Sturgis touchdown runs, the first from 4 yards out and the second from a yard away, as Rummel to regain the lead at 20-14 with 1:18 left before halftime.
Sturgis’ first score capped a 76-yard drive and the second on a 64-yard drive after the Raiders blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt by Wilson.
The teams traded interceptions in the closing moments of the first half, including Ahmonte’ Watkins’ second pick off of the night as Riverside trailed 2014 at halftime.
Rummel took a 6-0 lead, 65 yards on the game’s opening possession. The drive was capped on a 17-yard pass from Fields to Amour Rachal.
Despite having lost its first three games, Dizer said his team showed it can compete even with the likes of a Class 5A power like Rummel.
“In terms of defense, we still didn’t do a great job of stopping the run but we made plays and we never quit and continued to fight. That’s what I’ve been looking for out of the kids and that’s an exciting game. I couldn’t be more proud of them. We’re not going to let the wins and losses dictate how we feel about them,” the Riverside coach said.