WOODSTOCK — Week by week, River Ridge continues to make history.
The Knights beat Sequoyah 35-9 on Friday night at home, and in the process, remained unbeaten and recorded their fourth win this season over in-county opposition.
Entering the season, River Ridge had an 0-20 all-time record against Cherokee County foes.
With the win, River Ridge (8-0, 5-0 Region 7AAAAAA) also put itself in a position to win its first region championship next week at Johns Creek.
Despite the hype surrounding the team's success, River Ridge coach Mike Collins remained singularly focused on the process.
“Tonight meant a lot to me because it was the next region game,” Collins said. “It means a lot to me, though, because we want to continue to get better every week, and I felt like, in the second half tonight, we became a better football team.”
The loss kept Sequoyah (2-6, 2-3) outside of the top four spots in the region standings with two games remaining.
River Ridge wasted no time asserting itself to open the game. The Knights marched 59 yards in eight plays — none for negative or neutral yardage — and finished it off when Amehre Morrison plunged in from 1 yard out.
Sequoyah responded immediately with its most explosive play of the evening, as Jaden Mitchell took his first carry 75-yard for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and River Ridge led 7-6.
Mitchell finished with a team-high 13 carries for 118 yards.
Undeterred, River Ridge responded with a nine-play, 83-yard scoring drive. Carson Lathem — who began the game 9-for-9 passing for 109 yards on the Knights’ first two drives — connected with Hunter Coleman for a 4-yard score which gave River Ridge a 14-7 lead only 8 minutes into the game.
River Ridge punted on its next two possessions, which allowed Sequoyah’s Steven Zurita to cut into the lead with a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter. A holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff called back Morrison’s 99-yard kickoff return for a score, and the teams were evenly matched heading into halftime, with River Ridge leading 14-9.
“We came out outstanding offensively, but a penalty here and a penalty there really hamstrung us, too,” Collins said. “We knew we had to get some discipline and, eventually, we’d get rolling.”
River Ridge did get rolling, scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half. Lathem’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Head midway through the third quarter was followed immediately by Morrison’s 75-yard touchdown run down the home sideline.
Lathem finished 13-for-17 passing for 169 yards with two touchdowns, while Head finished with a team-high six receptions for 87 yards with the score. Morrison — who entered the game as the second-leading rusher in the state — continued his prolific season, finishing with 15 carries for 125 yards and two scores.
It was perhaps a defensive player who made the biggest impact for River Ridge, however. Junior defensive lineman Brian Bradley recorded multiple sacks and seemed to cause havoc for the Sequoyah offense throughout the entirety of the game.
Bradley’s sack and forced fumble on Sequoyah quarterback Matthew Traynor in the fourth quarter seemed to epitomize his impact and brought life to a Knights defense which shutout Sequoyah in the second half.
“We came out a little slow in the first half, and it just felt great in the second half to finally get those stops,” Bradley said. “Honestly, the best thing right now is being able to feel that belief in ourselves surge through the entire team.
"Each week, you see it more, and we know we’re going to be a really tough team to compete against. To get respect feels good, but we’re also humble about it because we know it feels to be on the other side.”
Sequoyah will look to reverse its fortunes next week when it plays at Riverwood.