This year, Riverside has two basketball players (Reed and senior defensive back Dameria Lane), a track sprinter (Jackson) and a wrestler (senior fullback Zach Cook) in the starting lineup to add athleticism across the board, which has been missing in recent years. Cook added 40 yards rushing.
"They made some good catches and some nice tackles back in the secondary,'' said Hensley of Reed and Lane. "I don't think we've had some to come out and really help us like that. We just hope we can stay healthy and keep improving.''
The Red Dragons showed some positive signs in trying to learn first-year coach Steve Stoffel Jr.'s new spread offense.
SA matched Riverside score for score in the first quarter before the game got out of hand in the second half. The teams were knotted at 14-all after Red Dragons junior quarterback Taylor Clark hit junior tight end Dakota Kelly with a 46-yard TD pass with 1:28 left in the period.
"We gave up too many big plays,'' said Stoffel, who was without starting senior linebacker Kevin Cantley, who earned AAA all-state second-team honors after last season, and senior kicker-safety Gavin Smith.
"We did a lot of good things early. We competed for 21/2 quarters. We took some chances and gave them points.''
SA senior running back Drew Kirby ground out 104 yards on 21 carries, and Clark finished 11-of-20 with 165 yards with a TD, but threw three picks. Red Dragons sophomore backup quarterback Noah Reed connected with freshman wideout Jacob Grigsby for a 77-yard run-and-catch in the final period.
"We're going to work at it and see if we can get better,'' Stoffel said. "I think we can.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.