WOODSTOCK — One week after one of the biggest wins in program history, River Ridge left no doubt on its home field to remain unbeaten to start its season.
River Ridge beat Etowah 38-7 on Friday night to win its third game in a row. After knocking off Woodstock a week earlier to record their first win over a Cherokee County opponent, the Knights (3-0) made it back-to-back.
River Ridge was led by its offense, which accumulated 439 yards, with 304 coming in the first half.
Carson Lathem was 18-of-23 passing with four touchdowns, finding three different receivers for scores. Running back Amehre Morrison was bottled up for most of the night by Etowah’s defense, but the county’s leading rusher still managed to tally 127 yards, capping it off with a 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“We knew we were going to have to make plays in the passing game with the way Etowah’s defensive line plays,” Lathem said. “We knew it might be a little harder for Amehre to get going, so we needed to go outside a little bit more, and it worked out well.”
Lathem’s connection with receiver Jackson Head continued to look like one of the more prolific combinations in the area.
Head finished with five receptions for a team-high 90 yards and two touchdowns. His 17-yard touchdown reception opened the scoring for the Knights in the first quarter, and his 43-yard score in the second quarter expanded the lead to 21-0.
“I wanted to get in so bad on that second one,” Head said. “We just want to keep relying on each other and keep winning football games. We’ve got a good group and we want to just keep it going.”
Defensively, River Ridge was equally impressive.
The Knights held Etowah to 15 yards in the first half, and the Eagles’ only score came on Collin Sherrer’s 20-yard fumble recovery and return for a touchdown late in the second quarter. Led by defensive lineman Brian Bradley, linebacker Hunter Deriso and safety Scott Rutherford, River Ridge held Etowah to no first downs through three quarters.
Etowah (0-2) was unable to find its rhythm offensively and continued to look for answers to move the ball.
In the second half, several of the younger players on the Eagles' roster, including sophomore running back Luis Martinez and freshman running back Elijah Washington, seemed to find a bit of confidence. Martinez finished with a team-high seven carries for 22 yards, while Washington added 20 yards on five carries.
Following Head’s first score, Lathem connected with tight end Riley Caines for a 19-yard touchdown in the corner of the endzone. Caines finished with a team-high six receptions for 68 yard, and receiver Andrew Bingham added three catches for 59 yards.
Lathem found senior Preston Cox on a 16-yard score on the Knights’ first possession of the third quarter, and Morrison’s scamper later in the period was the finishing touch.
In his second season at River Ridge, coach Mike Collins seems to have his team believing in itself.
“I told them I was proud of them because wins are hard to come by,” Collins said. “We’ll enjoy this, but we’ve got to realize there’s a bigger task ahead. It feels good, and we’ll enjoy it, but the most important thing is the next game. Someone is always trying to work to get better.”
After consecutive home wins, River Ridge will begin Region 7AAAAAA with a three-game road swing at Chattahoochee, Riverwood and Creekview.
Etowah will look to break into the win column as it continues its non-region schedule by hosting North Forsyth next week.