River Has No Trouble With Bridgeport
HANNIBAL – With only 17 players in uniform Friday night, River High coach Mike Flannery had a simple game plan: Keep it simple.
Despite the lack of numbers, Flannery’s Pilots were up to the task, blanking Bridgeport, 44-0, at Martin Flannery Field.
The outcome left both teams standing at 3-4. The loss snapped a three-game Bulldog winning streak.
“We just wanted to control the line of scrimmage and run the football. We didn’t plan on doing anything fancy. We were going to keep it simple,” Flannery said. “We came out and did what we wanted to do. Our line did a nice job and our backs did a real nice job of finding the holes.
“I can’t remember the last time River suited up so few players. We practiced all week with just 14 players,” he added. “I give our players credit for handling the situation as well as they did.”
River scored on all five of its first-half possessions in building a 38-0 intermission lead. The second half was played under OHSAA mercy-rule guidelines.
“We dealt with a lot of adversity this week and we lost some more kids tonight. But we will get through it,” Bridgeport first-year head coach Fred Ray said. “We knew River would be tough test. They have nice skilled-people and are well-coached.”
River rushed for 282 yards on the night. The Pilots went to the air on just eight occasions, completing six for 141 stripes.
Bridgeport was limited to just 176 total yards, 127 coming on the ground. Senior quarterback standout Tino Kusic picked up 84 of the infantry stripes.
River’s Carter Dennis took the opening kickoff at his 15 and returned it all the way to the Bridgeport 35. The Pilots used seven rushing plays to find paydirt with hard-running Hunter Dennis pounding it in from the one. Carter Dennis ran in the two-point conversion.
River turned Bridgeport over on downs on its next possession, taking over at the Bulldog 49. Seven more rushing plays yielded the hosts’ second TD of the night, a 15-yard Carter Dennis burst.
Michael Johnson ran in the conversion for a 16-0 reading with 3:27 left in the opening quarter.
Bridgeport followed with a solid drive, marching from its 27 to the River 20, again turning it over on downs. Six snaps later, River was in the end zone via a six-yard Johnson blast. Senior lineman Kaine McLeod ran in the conversion for a 24-0 lighting.
On Bridgeport’s ensuing possession, Johnson snuffed out a Bulldog threat with an interception at the River one. The Pilots embarked on a 10-play, 99-yard scoring march, capped by a nine-yard pass from Stone Thompson to Cooper VanCamp. The conversion failed.
River made it a 38-0 issue in the late stages of the first half as Thompson speared Johnson with a 28-scoring hookup. Carter Dennis added the conversion run.
The lone score of the second half was provided by the River defense. Pilot junior Alex Rufener scooped up a fumble and raced 35 yards for a TD.
“I was happy how we moved the ball. Now we need to get healthy and get focused for Crestline,” Flannery said. “Coach Ray is a class act. He will do a good job with his program.”
Carter Dennis led the River rushing attack with 115 stripes. Johnson delivered 57 yards while Hunter Dennis chipped in with 55.
At halftime, Candace Caldwell was crowned River High’s 2018 Homecoming Queen while Hunter Dennis was crowned king.
The 1968 Pilots’ baseball team was honored during the contest. It is the only River High team to advance to a state tournament.