Defense carries River to win over Byrd

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Eagles improve to 7-2 with 28-8 win

By Mike Forster

These guys can play some defense, too.

Staunton River showed that it is much more than an offensive circus in posting a 28-8 win over visiting William Byrd.

The Golden Eagles kept the Terriers to under 200 total yards in improving to 7-2.

More impressively, River faced five situations in which the Terriers were in the red zone.

The Eagle defense rose to the occasion on four of those instances, ensuring the victory.

Middle linebacker Brian Ellis embodied the spirit of the defensive unit.

In the third quarter, Ellis was inadvertently cleated in the ribs while making a tackle.

You could count the cleats from the Byrd size 10.

“I told the trainer that if I wasn’t dead, I was going back in,” said Ellis, after the game.

Ellis went back in with a passion, laying two major hits on Byrd’s Joe Barton.

We’d hate to see how Ellis would have treated the guy who actually cleated him.

Ellis had nine tackles for the game, leading a crew of 12 Eagles who got at least a tackle.

Bobby Hobbs and Solomon McCullough were part of that crew, each logging five tackles.

While the defense did its part, the Staunton River offense wasn’t quite as crisp as it’s been over the past two months.

It was crisp enough, however.

Things were a bit spooky in the early going.  Byrd opened with a halfback option pass from Simeon Horstmann to Nick Janowicz.  That hook-up netted 40 yards and set the Terriers up on the Eagle 16.

River forced the fumble, however, with Jarodd Nichols raking in the ball on his own nine yard line.

After an exchange of punts, quarterback Cody Jones went to town for SR.  He led his team on a five-yard drive that gobbled up 70 yards.

Jones ran for 23 of those yards, and passed (to Nichols) for another 33, before doing the honors himself on a six-yard dash.

With a minute and a half remaining in the first quarter, Meech Coles, went into motion, taking a high pitch in stride to blow past the entire Byrd defense on a 61-yard scamper, to make it 13-0.

In the second quarter, the Eagles showed they could play ball-control offense.  Over 14 plays, the Eagles marched from their own 10 yard line to the Terrier 10.

Stephen Hardy capped off things with a 27-yard field goal to make it 16-0 at the half.

Early in the third quarter, Hardy added another three-pointer, to make it 19-0.

Byrd wasn’t ready to lie down, though.

Following a nice punt return by Joe Barton, Byrd was on the River 45 yard line.

From there, quarterback Jacob Barton connected with Joe Barton for a 34 yard gain.

QB Barton finished it off with a nifty 10-yard touchdown completion to Seth Webb.

With the two-point conversion after, the Terriers were now threatening, at 19-8.

No need to fear.  Jones led his team on another time-eating drive.  This one went nine plays before Jones dashed 23 yards off the option, bee-lining toward the right corner of the end zone.

The game was nearly iced at this point.

It was fully iced on the ensuing kickoff.  Hardy drilled an on-side kick that bounced off one of the Byrd up-men.  It bounced right into the arms of Hardy, himself.

The senior kicker wrapped up that series by booting a perfect coffin-corner punt that pushed Byrd back to its own six yard line, vanquishing any realistic hope for the comeback.

“He is solid as a rock,” said Poston of Hardy.

Jones wrapped up the scoring by blocking a Webb punt attempt in the end zone.  Jones scrambled to try and recover the loose ball, but couldn’t get to it before it rolled out of the end zone.

Game notes

-The River defense stopped Byrd short of the mark on all three of the Terriers’s fourth-down conversion attempts.

-The Golden Eagles forced four turnovers.  Three fumbles were recovered by Nichols, Jones and K.C. Bradley.

Chris Eggleston had the interception at the end of the first half.

-Ellis on the SR defense:  “My defensive tackles and nose guard (Ryan Willis, Bradley and Ja-Rod Alston) did a great job of slanting.  They opened up holes for me.”

-After the game, Coach Poston said, “I told (my players) all year, if you play good defense, you have a chance to play for a championship.  Now we got a shot at the belt, just like we wanted.”

-Coles ran for 137 yards on 21 carries, while Jones picked up 95 yards on 15 tries.

-Jacob Barton was 5-of-15, for 73 yards in the air, for Byrd.  Jones was 3-for-7, picking up 78 aerial yards.

-The win was the first for Staunton River over Byrd since 2005.  It also gave the Eagles a perfect 5-0 mark at home this season.