A season of firsts continues for River Bluff.
Junior Michael Rikard threw four touchdown passes as the Gators defeated Conway 35-19 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. It’s the first-ever home playoff game in school history and advances River Bluff to the second round for the second time ever.
The 9-1 record is the best-ever at River Bluff as well.
River Bluff will travel to Berkeley, a 48-33 winner against Irmo, next Friday night.
“I’ve been real proud of our guys all year,” River Bluff coach Blair Hardin said. “Our coaches have done a heck of a job. It’s a big win for the program. I told the guys this week, we don’t want to just be happy to be in the playoffs, they should expect this. Our goal is to be practicing on Thanksgiving every year.”
The Gators had to play without leading rusher in Braden Walker, who has an injured ankle, but the offense didn’t miss a beat because of Rikard and Antonio Gantt. Rickard threw touchdown passes of 3, 75, 5 and 62 yards to four receivers. Gantt, who came in with over 800 yards rushing himself, ran for 169 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries.
“(Rikard) grew up a lot tonight,” Hardin said. “He got hit a lot, but I was really proud of the way he responded. He hung in and battled for our team. He stayed in there and made some good plays for us.”
Rikard directed a 2-minute offense at the end of the first half to give the Gators some cushion. He connected with Austin Murton on a 5-yard scoring pass with 34 seconds before the half to give River Bluff a 21-12 lead.
After Conway pulled within 21-19, Gantt scored on a 3-yard run and Rikard sealed things with a 62-yard scoring pass to Fellers Wise with 8:57 remaining.
“It feels great to get a team win,” Rikard said. “We’ve all worked so hard to accomplish this. I do know for a fact that we’re not finish yet.”
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Rikard played well despite the absence of Walker. The junior finished 7-of-11 for 162 yards and the career-best four scores. He did have his right hand wrapped in ice at the end, but he said it was a minor injury.
2. There was a 21-minute power outage in the first quarter. Conway was leading 6-0 at the time. Rikard said the delay allowed the Gators to sort of regroup, talk some things out and come back focused. The Gators scored 21 second quarter points after that.
3. Walker might be back for the second round. Gantt is 9 yards shy of 1,000 on the season with Walker near 1,500. River Bluff will need all their weapons against a high-scoring Berkeley team.
HOW THEY SCORED
C – Michael James 3 run (kick blocked) 7:09
RB – Riley Myers 3 pass from Michael Rikard (Coltin Hallman kick) 10:04
RB – Tyson Trottier 75 pass from Rikard (Hallman kick)
C – Xavier Kinlaw 40 run (pass failed) 2:06
RB – Austin Murton 5 pass from Rikard (Hallman kick) 0:34
C – Keimone Graham 12 pass from Daquinton Grady (Will Smith kick) 5:29
RB – Antonio Gantt 3 run (Hallman kick) 1:37
RB – Fellers Wise 62 pass from Rikard (Hallman kick) 8:57
Rushing: C: Xavier Kinlaw 20-173, Daquinton Grady 11-64, Michael James 10-49. RB: Antonio Gantt 23-169, Riley Myers 6-25, Michael Rikard 3-(-7)
Passing: C: Grady 10-20-0-56. RB: Rickard 7-11-0-162
Receiving: C: Quancey Bennett 5-22, Steven Hill 2-23, Keimone Graham 1-12, Kinlaw 2-(-1). RB: Tyson Trottier 2-80, Fellers Wise 2-66, Damone Spencer 1-8, Austin Murton 1-5, Myers 1-3