CANTON — Wins rarely come easy in high school football, and that was the case Friday as a do-or-die play at the goal line decided the game in the final minute.
Leading 14-6 with less than a minute to play, Creekview completed a final stand when Grant Anderson met River Ridge quarterback Chase Begin at the goal line. On a fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line Begin rolled right, avoided the initial defender and dove toward the end zone, but he was met by Anderson, who jarred the ball loose.
The fumble was recovered by Jake Kaminski and Creekview escaped with a win on senior night at the Grizzly Den.
“I’m just proud of our guys to find a way to win this one, with as many mistakes as we made and how much we shot ourselves in the foot,” Creekview coach Trevor Williams said. “Credit to River Ridge because they came in here with a great game plan and they executed it. Defensively, they fly around, but our kids just found a way to make one more play.”
Wearing green jerseys for the first time, Creekview (5-2, 3-2 Region 6AAAAAA) picked up the valuable win despite fumbling the ball five times and committing 13 penalties for 110 yards. River Ridge (2-6, 1-5) led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter following a 28-yard field goal by Jose Ledesma, but Creekview’s playmakers began to assert themselves in the second quarter.
Quarterback Brody Rhodes connected with Ethan Dirrim for 61-yard pass down to the 2-yard line on the opening possession of the second quarter, and Rhodes finished the drive himself with a touchdown run on the following play.
Dylan Stevens’ extra point made the score 7-3, and it seemed as though Creekview would begin to pull away.
The Grizzlies drove 54 yards in seven plays on their next possession, with Rhodes finding Dirrim again on a 15-yard fade route for a touchdown. Following after another field goal by Ledesma, this time from 39 yards out, Creekview led 14-6 at halftime.
“Brody and I have grown closer over this past year battling over the quarterback position, but we think we’re better as a team with me at receiver being able to make plays and him back there with a heck of an arm,” Dirrim said. “Coach said it’s better to fix mistakes after a win than after a loss, so we’re going to come back on Monday ready to work.”
The second half saw both teams struggle with penalties and the game became a back-and-forth field position battle. Neither team moved the ball inside the opponents’ red zone until the final drive by River Ridge.
River Ridge’s game plan to control the ball and eat up clock worked well and gave the Knights’ and chance to tie the game at the end of regulation. Amehre Morrison finished with 27 carries for 74 yards, and Begin finished 9-for-19 passing for 90 yards, while adding 44 rushing yards on 10 carries. Jackson Head led the Knights with five receptions for 69 yards.
For Creekview, Rhodes finished 9-for-17 passing for 162 yards with one touchdown, while adding 31 yards rushing on nine carries and a score. Dirrim finished with seven receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Creekview senior offensive tackle John Williams said he never lost faith as the game was winding down that his teammates would make the plays necessary to win.
“That game was frustrating, of course. We had a lot of offensive mistakes, and I didn’t play perfect either,” John Williams said. “But I knew, in my heart, my brothers would get it done. I trusted my brothers all the way through and we got it done. That final play was amazing. Came right when we needed it.”
Creekview outgained River Ridge 247-204, and for the second week in a row, the Knights had an opportunity to score come up just short at the goal line.
After the final goal-line stand, Trevor Williams pumped his fist in celebration, and the home sideline erupted in a roar. For the players on the field, it was an example of a do-or-die moment where games are won and lost.
“It felt amazing. My heart was pounding,” Anderson said. “I saw their quarterback rolling out and he cut back. It was all or nothing.”
Creekview will host South Cobb next week, while River Ridge will be on its second bye week.