Rivercrest clinched a share of the 3A-3 conference championship, as the Colts raced past the Lions 56-13 Thursday night at Manila.
(Town Crier photos/Trent Fletcher)
"I am proud of these young men for sticking in there and never quitting," said Lion Head Coach Toby Doke. "When we started this program, these kids were only ninth graders. They have gone through a lot of adversity, but they have hung in there and paved the way for our future, which I think is very bright."
Rivercrest drew first blood on a two-yard touchdown run by Terrance Banks. Manila blocked the point after attempt, leaving the Colts with a 6-0 lead at the 8:23 mark of the first period.
The Colts held Manila to a three and out on the Lion's first possession. Lance Kilbreath's punt was blocked, setting the Colts up with a first down at the Manila 25 yard line. Earl Byrd scored from 10 yards out six plays later, and following the two point conversion, Rivercrest led 14-0 with 4:45 left in the opening quarter.
Manila got on the board on its next possession when senior quarterback Josh Miles found J.J. Helton running alone behind the Rivercrest secondary. Helton caught the ball in full stride and raced 56 yards untouched into the end zone. Zach Birmingham's point after pulled the Lions to within 21-7 midway through the second period.
Rivercrest wasted little time in answering Manila's score, going 53 yards in only two plays, capped off by Gregory's 34-yard touchdown romp. Gregory added the point after for a 28-7 Colt lead with 7:28 left in the half.
Gregory scored his second touchdown of the night on the Colt's next possession, capping off a 56-yard, five-play drive. The junior running back added the point after for a 35-7 with only 3:17 left in the half.
The Colts exploded for three more touchdowns in the last 1:43 of the half. Reserve quarterback Blake Coffman hooked up with Gregory on a 65-yard touchdown pass to start the barrage. Banks picked off a Miles pass on Manila's next possession and rambled 55 yards for another score. Brown closed out the half intercepting a Dillon Burrow pass and raced 65 yards, giving the Colts a 56-13 halftime lead.
Miles finished his Manila career completing 13-24 passes for 159 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Helton snared seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Six other Lions caught passes including seniors John Wilbanks, Spencer Cain, Steven Green and Jared Burks, along with junior Brian Borden and sophomore Dillon Burrow.
Wilbanks led Manila in rushing with nine carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. Borden had three rushes for 15 yards. The Lions totaled 229 yards on 33 plays.
Rivercrest rolled up 365 yards of total offense using a balanced attack. The Colts rushed for 193 yards and passed for 172 more. Brown went two for four through the air for 85 yards and a touchdown while Coffman hit one of two passes for 65 yards and a score. Banks led the Colts in receiving, catching two passes for 85 yards and a touchdown while Gregory had one reception for 65 yards and a score.
Banks led Rivercrest in rushing, carrying five times for 45 yards with one touchdown. Brown carried six times for 42 yards, Gregory toted the ball three times for 37 yards and two scores, while Byrd rushed four times for 17 yards and a touchdown.
"Rivercrest has great tradition and a lot of great athletes," said Doke. "We knew that coming in. Coach (Kelly) Chandler does a great job. They are the conference champs and deservedly so."
"We have gotten a lot better over the last couple of years," continued Doke. "Last season we scored only three touchdowns the entire year, while this year we finished with 27. That's quite an improvement. That's all because our seniors paid the price for us. We've got good talent coming up from the seventh grade through the junior high. We will have a young group coming up with a good core of veterans. I believe in a couple of years we will have a real shot at making the playoffs."
Seniors playing their final game for the Lions included Josh Miles, Jared Burks, John Wilbanks, Steven Green, Lance Kilbreath, Dale Butterworth, Seth Towles, Zach Birmingham, Briar Moore, Drew Byford, Spencer Cain, Tim Decker, and Michael Schrader.