With Dutch Fork comfortably atop Region 5-5A, the battle for second place heated up at River Bluff Stadium on Friday night.
The Gators, playing host to Chapin and looking for their first region win, put it all on Braden Walker — and he carried it. Thirty times to be exact, to the tune of 348 yards and four touchdowns as River Bluff held off the Eagles 28-17.
“He ran hard, he did his job, but it starts with our guys up front,” Gators coach Blair Hardin said. “Our quarterback did a good job managing the game. We gotta get better at penalties, but I’m just really proud of our guys, they went out and got after it.”
The Gators had 170 yards on 15 penalties, but River Bluff (6-1, 1-1) negated that stat by rolling up 477 yards of total offense, while the Gators defense held Chapin (4-2, 1-2) to 238 yards and 10 offensive points.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, Chapin is a great team and they’re well- coached, but our kids responded,” Hardin said. “I was really proud of our guys up front on both sides of the ball.”
Alex Nelson’s 33-yard field goal, along with Dante Chirico’s 35-yard interception return, put Chapin up 17-14 with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
Walker, who had 168 yards in the first half, scored on a 63-yard touchdown run with 4:05 left in the third quarter. He dashed in from 42 yards out with 8:24 to play to secure the win.
Just before the scoreless first quarter expired, River Bluff took over at its own 5-yard line and sparked a long possession peppered with Walker runs. Walker capped the 10-play, 95-yard scoring drive with a 14-yard touchdown run at the 8-minute mark of the second.
Chapin responded in kind, taking the ball at its 20-yard line and knocking out a 9-play drive that Connor Lehman finished off with a game-tying 2-yard TD run.
With a little more than four minutes to play, the Gators took over at their 20 and warmed up their passing game. Michael Rikard’s passes to Walker, Tyson Trottier, and Da’mone Spencer moved the Gators close enough for Walker to rush into the end zone from six yards out just before the half.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Braden Walker can pretty much carry the River Bluff offense. Walker had 165 yards and both Gators touchdowns on 18 carries in the first half.
2. Austin Murton has a good bead on Roger Pedroni. The 6-1, 190-pound defensive end sacked the Chapin quarterback three times. Gators got to Pedroni five times.
3. Both Chapin and River Bluff showed that they are good holding onto the football. Both teams combined for 480 yards rushing but had no fumbles.
HOW THEY SCORED
R – Braden Walker 14 run (Coltin Hallman kick) 8:00
C – Connor Lehman 2 run (Alex Nelson kick) 4:30
R – Walker 6 run (Hallman kick) :43
C – Nelson 33 field goal 7:00
R – Walker 63 run (Hallman kick) 4:05
R – Walker 42 run (Hallman kick) 8:24
Rushing: C: Roger Pedroni 10-(-5), Taison Thomas 7-17, Connor Lehman 2-3, Trey Lyles 6-48. RB: Braden Walker 30-348, Riley Myers 9-46, Michael Rikard 4-(-15).
Passing: C: Roger Pedroni 17-23-0-175. RB: Michael Rikard 8-11-0-98.
Receiving: C: Jaylin Thomas 5-51, Jason Graves 5-55, Gio Macaluso 1-12, Taison Thomas 3-32, Jacob Dixon 1-16, Trey Lyles 1-5, Zavier Short 1-4. RB: Da’Mone Spencer 5-63, Austin Murton 1-16, Tyson Trottier 1-14, Braden Walker 1-5.