The Northern Neck Rivermen climbed to the leaderboard of the Mason Dixon Football League after a decisive win in King George. Hosting the Arbutus Big Red, from Baltimore, the Rivermen won 27-7 earning their fifth straight win of the season.
After his first game with the Rivermen, newcomer and running back Mike Vann said he will definitely be back after opening the game with an 18-yard kick return. Vann is a former running back and rookie of the year from Ferrum College.
“It felt good just to be out here and have an opportunity to play for the Rivermen,” Vann said.
The running back’s effort was capitalized with a 64-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Walt Covington to receiver Tim Short.
The Rivermen defense made a big stop after Big Red would march down the field for 70 yards to be denied score on the one-yard line four attempts in the redzone.
Big Red would be given the ball back after a few minutes of play after the Rivermen failed to put in points on the board.
In the following drive for the Big Red offense, the visiting team would put their share of points turning to their aggressive running game. This came after a shuffle pass from quarterback John Morrison to running back Brian Chapman for a three-yard score. An extra point attempt tied the game, 7-7, to open the second quarter.
The Rivermen offense would respond with another score marching 80 yards down the field in four plays. Covington connected with receiver Jermaine Weldon for a 64-yard touchdown reception. The extra point attempt was no good giving the Rivermen a 13-7 lead to end the half after both teams failed to add any more points to the scoreboard.
At the start of the third quarter, Big Red opened woke up the Rivermen kicking teams with a 40-yard return. But it was Justin Kelly that would recover a fumble on the Big Red’s first play from scrimmage.
But Arbutus would answer intercepting a Covington pass, but send their offense back to their five-yard line after earning a personal foul penalty. A quick three-and-out followed forcing Big Red to punt the ball.
In turn, Rivermen’s Mike Howard would capitalize on a short kick to score from 34 yards out. Weldon would tack on another two points to give the Rivermen a 21-7 lead with 8:01 left in the third quarter.
Both teams would exchange trips out on offense in attempts to score. Neither was successful until late in the third quarter when Big Red would kick a short punt.
Kick returner Derrick Manning, of the Rivermen, would be the next man to be congratulated after scoring on a 75-yard return. Both teams continued to exchange possessions with no scores resulting a in a 27-7 final score.
Short, who opened the game with the first score, said it was important to get out to an early start. In previous games, he mentioned his team started out a sluggish scoring early. But to get the drives going against Arbutus felt like the league championship two years ago scoring last Saturday.
“It felt like the championship when we came out an punched in the mouth,” Short said. “They came out hitting hard, but we came out as team today.”
Howard returned a Big Red punt for a 34-yard touchdown to help extend the Rivermen lead in the third quarter. Weldon capped off the score catching the two-point attempt to give the Rivermen a 21-7 lead with 8:01 remaining in the third quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, free safety Devonte Reynolds and cornerback Tony Russell were awarded each with an interception.
“We manned up, plugged the holes up and started them turning the ball over,” Reynolds said.
Russell has been a threat on defense picking off quarterbacks for the past five games. The corner knew it would be a challenge facing the Big Red, but Arbutus was not immune.
“You don’t get surprises for what you work for. If you work hard and play hard, give God the glory because that’s what he gives us and we worked hard for it,” Russell said.
Manning led the defense with six tackles. Dominic Fields, Sid Thompson and Laslow Pickett each had nine assists. Larry Catlett came up with two deflections leading the team.
With the success the team is having this season, owner and coach Dennis Cornwell admitted he was prepared to fold the team after the spring after the lack of commitment.
“I told my wife if we’re going to do it, we’re going do it right with good men of character and good athletes, and we did,” Cornwell said.
Big Red coach Urlander Giles complimented the Rivermen on the win, but also hopes his guys will be better prepared the next time they meet next month.
“That’s a very good team and our guys just didn’t prepare well this week. We’ve got some great skill players, but when you don’t practice well and your timing is off it shows when you face a good team like this one,” Giles said.
Following Saturday’s game against Big Red, the Rivermen will host the Virginia Hornets in King George (7 p.m.) on Aug. 17 in a benefit for Kenneth and Tracy Sullivan Barbeau following an accident paralyzing Ken from the chest down.
He has a six-year old daughter, wife and he is 37 years old.
The Rivermen will then travel to Richmond for their second meeting against the Titans on Aug. 24 (7 p.m.) followed a bye week.
On Sept. 7, the Rivermen will play their final home game of the regular season at 7 p.m against the Virginia Steelers.
Two road games await the Rivermen traveling to Arbutus on Sept. 14 and to the Virginia Silverbacks in Charlottesville on Sept. 21. Game times are at 7 p.m.
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RIV 7 6 14 0—27
BRE 0 7 0 0—7
Rushing: M. Howard 5-11, W. Covington 1-(-14), T. Short 1-(-6), A. Ogunwenmo 3-7, D. Wilson 2-7, Mike Vann 3-2, D. Jackson 1-(-4)
Passing: W. Covington 15-26-1-204 2TD
Receiving: M. Howard 3-19, D. Jackson 3-27, J. Weldon 2-66 TD, M. Robinson 1-12, T. Short 3-82 TD, M. Vann 4-(-3)
PAT: B. Hollingsworth 1-3