On a wet and rainy Saturday afternoon, 2022 runner-up Decatur County Riverside and East Robertson battled it out for the 2A football championship inside Finley Stadium.
Riverside, after battling Robertson to a 7-7 halftime tie, found the end zone one more time in the second half and held off the determined Indians to capture its first-ever state title by a narrow 13-7 margin.
“Wow! My thoughts are, nothing's possible without the Lord and these kids believe in themselves, they believe in this team, they believe in the coaches and they believe in this community,” said a beaming Riverside head coach Johnnie Frost. “Parker Wilks came up to me after the Huntingdon game and said, 'Coach, our freshman year we went to the quarterfinals. My sophomore year we went to the semifinals. My junior year we got the silver ball. We've only got one more thing to do and that's go get the gold one.'" Frost continued, " We went and took care of Fairley and tonight we squeaked by East Robinson which is a very, very good, talented football team. My hat's off to them. They've got some great kids and coaches over there. But, there was only one thing left to do and we did it.”
Riverside opened strong on its first possession with a 75-yard scoring drive to take an early 7-0 lead.
Bobby Brantley helped out with a 13-yard run in the rain while Desmond Thomas picked up 39 yards on three carries capped off with a run to the end zone from 11-yards out.
East Robertson after giving up a fumble early in the second quarter made good on an 88-yard march to close out the half. Isaiah Groves gave the Indians a great start with a 49-yard blast around the right side to the Riverside 34. After a pair of running losses, quarterback Kason Young picked up 12 yards to the 29 then hooked up with Zach Groves for 25yards to the 4-yard line. From there Young pulled the ball down and pushed in for the score tying the game at 7-7 with just over one minute left in the first half.
Groves finished with 112 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. Riverside's Desmond Thomas countered with 126 yards on an equal number of touches.
The Indians opened the third quarter with a solid drive from their own 48-yard line to the Panthers' 29 before a fourth-and-3 pass fell to the turf giving the ball back to Riverside.
The Panthers made the most of the gift moving from their own 21-yard line to the Robertson 5 in 11 plays underscored by a Stone Wallace to Jagger Cupples connection good for 31 yards. Two plays later, Desmond Thomas covered the final 5 yards up the middle for the score giving Riverside its first lead at 13-7 after a missed PAT.
After forcing a Robertson punt, the Panthers, trying to use up clock fumbled the ball at their own 38-yard line. The Robertson's Groves fell on the ball setting setting the Indians up in find shape. Seven plays later, Robertson gave the ball back to Riverside after coming up short a Young pass on fourth-and-19 missed giving the ball back to the Panthers with 3:10 left on the clock.
From there, the Panthers were able to run out the clock to win their first-ever state championship.
“It was fun, though. That's what makes football fun. You never know what's going to happened and how things are going to turn out. It's play the next play,” Frost said of playing in a four quarter downpour.
“We're going to go back to our dressing facility, we're going to get something to eat and we're probably going to have a good time taking pictures and enjoying each other' s company. Then we'll get on the bus and ride home and get up and go to church in the morning and celebrate all next week if we can.”