NEW PORT RICHEY – River Ridge scored in the final minute of the game on Friday for a come-from-behind 37-32 preseason win over visiting Hernando.
Both teams finished last season with 3-7 records. Similarly to last season, both teams relied heavily on their running game on Friday to move the ball. The Leopards used five different rushers, while the Royal Knights relied primarily on senior Chris Schwartz.
The game began with both teams unable to sustain a drive and being forced to punt after three downs. At the end of the first quarter, the Royal Knights led, 8-0.
The Leopards scored three times in the second quarter to take a 20-16 halftime lead. D’Angelo Fagin, who finished with four touchdowns, started the scoring for the Leopards with a 5 yard run around the left sideline.
Following a score by the Royal Knights, Mark Wilson electrified the crowd on the ensuing kickoff when he returned it 91 yards for a touchdown. With three blockers leading him up the middle, he faked right, ran to his left and was untouched after crossing midfield.
Fagin closed out the first half scoring with a 19 yard run. Fagin demonstrated his pass-catching ability when he connected on a 49 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Kline.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Leopards held a slim 26-23 lead. Following a Royal Knight score, the Leopards found themselves down 30-26. They relied on Fagin and he delivered again, this time on a 1-yard plunge between the center and right tackle.
With the score 32-30, three minutes remaining and the ball on the home team’s 30-yard line, it was time for the defense to step up.
Unfortunately for the Leopards, they were unable to stop the Royal Knights. With 0:32 on the clock, Schwarz rushed the ball up the middle for four yards to close out the scoring.
Four passing attempts by the Leopards were unsuccessful as time ran out.
First year Hernando head coach Bill Vonada talked about his goals for the upcoming season.
“We were sloppy in our spring game loss to Crystal River,” said Vonada. “We need to have a mindset of what it takes to compete and succeed. Our running game and our linebackers are our strengths, but our defensive line is going to have to step up.
“We have a tough schedule ahead of us. Six of our 10 opponents made the playoffs last year, so we will need to minimize our mistakes and play up to our potential.”
River Ridge 37, Hernando 32
1 2 3 4
HH 0 20 6 6 32
RR 8 8 7 14 37
RR – Duke 2 pass from Mathieson (Schwarz run)
HH – Fagin 5 run (Niethammer kick)
RR – Schwarz 11 run (Schwarz run)
HH – Wilson 91 kickoff return (Niethammer kick)
HH – Fagin 19 run (Niethammer kick no good)
HH – Fagin 49 pass from Kline (Niethammer kick no good)
RR – Schwarz 29 run (Niethammer kick)
RR – Lempfert 9 pass from Mathieson (Niethammer kick)
HH – Fagin 1 run (Niethammer kick no good)
RR – Schwarz 4 run (Niethammer kick)