CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By halftime, it looked like George Washington had way more than enough to mow down rival South Charleston. As it turned out, the Patriots had just barely enough.
Draven Riffe burst out of the blocks with a 28-carry, 262-yard, three-touchdown performance as GW held on for a 34-27 opening victory in front of a near-capacity crowd Thursday at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills.
After churning out 356 rushing yards in the first half to grab a 34-14 lead, GW turned the ball over four times in the second half, two of which SC returned for touchdowns to make a potential blowout keenly interesting.
"We did have to hold on,'' said Patriots coach Steve Edwards Jr. "It shows good character on our team. They had plenty of opportunities to lose their composure and fold up camp. Better teams have done that before. But to these kids' credit, they stuck together, they held together, they believed in the process and believed in what was going on and believed in each other.''
The Black Eagles shaved their deficit back to one TD on a 25-yard fumble return by Kevin Forrest in the third quarter and a 92-yard interception runback by Marquel Hampton on the first play of the fourth quarter.
They got two offensive possessions after that - the first ending in a three-and-out from their 25 and the second picking up two first downs and reaching the GW 27.
On fourth-and-2 from the 27 with 28 seconds remaining, quarterback Kentre Grier dropped to throw but found no receivers open and darted up the middle. GW linemea Jack Skidmore stopped his progress until defensive help arrived and Grier was held to no gain.
GW, which won its fourth straight in this season-opening rivalry, finished with 525 yards on the ground and produced three 100-yard backs - Riffe, Jacob Jackson (nine carries, 131 yards, two TDs) and fullback Mason Blake (13 carries, 115 yards).
All three snapped off several tackle-breaking runs in the first half, with GW getting carries of 62, 40, 30, 69 and 43 yards. The first 20 plays the Patriots ran were rushing plays.
Riffe, a senior in his first season with the Patriots after playing two years ago at Scott, did most of his damage in the first half with 13 totes for 191 yards and three scores. He also intercepted a pair of passes while playing in GW's secondary.
"It was easy for the backs,'' Riffe said, "in the sense of our line. Our line is the key to that. It was all of them. Our big guys were our key. They're the reason we won tonight.''
It looked like GW was going to do the same pound-on-the-ground routine in the second half, taking the kickoff and moving 61 yards to the SC 19, buoyed by a 22-yard gain by Riffe. But a Jon Alexander fourth-down pass fell incomplete and the Black Eagles got second life.