Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.
Going through two weeks of adversity to test its perseverance and toughness after the unexpected death of a member of the Cave Spring coaching staff, the Knights were looking to rebound with plenty of grit. You might say they were ready to win one for the Gipper.
Friday night’s opponent at Dwight Bogle Stadium, the 5-1 Patrick Henry Patriots, boasted a much larger enrollment as a 5A school with nearly double the student body of Cave Spring. Add to that Patrick Henry had bulldozed its way through its last 4 opponents for 4 wins by a cumulative scoring differential of 179-17. Yes, the Knights faced a large dose of adversity, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Taking every shot Patrick Henry offered, and leaving it all on the field, the Knights had just enough counterpunch to pull out the edge-of-your-seat 34-28 River Ridge victory.
“I’m just proud of our kids, this was a great win for us,” Cave Spring head coach Nick Leftwich commented to the media after the win. “PH is a phenomenal team and they’ll bounce back. We just took advantage of the opportunity and did what we had to do to get the win.”
It was definitely a signature win for the second-year coach.
Patrick Henry wasted no time handing the Knights its first dose of adversity. On the second play from scrimmage after receiving the opening kickoff, Patriot quarterback Joey Beasley hit Penn State commit Carmelo Taylor for a 70-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. Only 47 seconds into the game and PH was up 7-0 after Sam Dowdy’s point-after.
On its ensuing possession, Cave Spring returned the favor. Facing third-and-19, Knight signal caller Landon Altizer hooked up with senior Ayden Babich for a 69-yard touchdown pass that knotted things at 7 after senior placekicker Jackson Matthews split the uprights.
PH responded moments later on a swing-pass to speedster Jahzae Kimbrough who raced 60 yards to the end zone for a score with 7:43 left in the opening frame. Dowdy’s kick made it 14-7 Patriots.
The Knights went to their running game led by Altizer, junior Cam Parker and sophomore Jackson Steffen. After a PH turnover late in the first, and after Altizer ran the ball on four straight keepers to end the first quarter, Altizer barreled in on the first play of the second quarter to make it 14-14.
The score remained tied until Cave Spring senior cornerback De’shawn Johnson grabbed a hanging pass by the Patriots and raced 45-yards to complete the pick-6 with 1:34 left in the half. The Knights had their first lead at 21-14.
Patrick Henry drove right down the field, but missed a golden opportunity when it got to the Cave Spring 1-yard-line, but failed to get into the end zone before time expired.
Early in the third quarter Taylor struck again for the Patriots. On their own 24-yard-line after a Knight fumble, Taylor scampered 76 yards for a score to make it 21-21 after the Dowdy conversion.
Cave Spring hit it big on its first play after the ensuing kickoff when junior Owen Sweeney took a reception from Altizer 54 yards to the PH 14-yard line. Moments later Altizer scampered in, and the Knights went up 28-21. PH came right back and when alternating quarterback Sidney Webb went in from 1-yard out, the score was tied at 28 heading to the final quarter.
Patrick Henry turned the ball over on a fumble early in the final frame and Sweeney got the Knights in business with an acrobatic 45-yard reception. An unsportsmanlike like penalty against the Patriots moved Cave Spring to the PH 10. On 4th and 1, Altizer scored with 6:59 left, but the missed PAT gave the Patriots a final opening.
PH drove to the Cave Spring 7-yard-line with 2:43 left, but a penalty and poor clock management left them facing fourth down at the 8-yard-line. The subsequent pass from Beasley to Kimbrough came up short, and with PH out of timeouts, Cave Spring ran out the clock.
The offensive numbers were impressive on both sides of the ball. Altizer finished a busy night with 34 carries that gained 142 yards and his three touchdowns for Cave Spring. In the air he passed for 185 yards on five completions. Sweeney’s three catches netted the Knights 93 yards.
Beasley was on target on 15-of-25 throws for a game-high 275 yards through the air. Taylor led the Patriots with a game-high 152 receiving yards on nine catches. Kimbrough was right on his heels with 131 yards on five receptions for PH.
The Knights improved to 5-2 (3-0 River Ridge District), while Patrick Henry fell to 5-2 on the regular season.