For most of the night, the mood on Riverbend’s sideline had been as foul as the drizzly weather. The Bears had trailed visiting Manchester, the top-ranked team in the Richmond area and one of the state’s top Class 6 teams, since the first quarter.
Then the Bears got an end zone interception early in the fourth quarter. And drove 70 yards for a touchdown to pull within a touchdown. And recovered an onside kick.
Suddenly, the feeling was “ecstatic,” according to sophomore quarterback Madden Lowe. “All 11 people in the huddle believed we were going to score.”
They almost did. Riverbend drove to the Lancers’ 5-yard line in the final seconds before Manchester’s Tyreim Hamilton batted away Lowe’s fourth-down pass attempt to Josh Croyle to preserve an aesthetically unpleasant 23–16 victory.
“This was one of the sloppiest games in my 28 years of coaching,” Manchester’s Tom Hall said after his team committed three turnovers and 172 yards in penalties in a three-hour slugfest. “I don’t want to take anything away from Riverbend, but the points on the board, we certainly handed to them.
“Some of our kids got caught up reading the polls, as teenagers tend to do. But the most important thing is, we’re 1–0.”
For three quarters, the Lancers lived up to their clippings. Junior quarterback Brendon Clark, who has committed to Wake Forest, ran 35 yards for a first-quarter touchdown and hit Colin Harding with a second-period scoring pass. Isaiah Ford’s third-quarter TD run pushed the lead to 23–9.
To that point, Riverbend (1–1) had little reason for optimism other than Lowe’s 80-yard second-quarter touchdown strike to Jarren Holmes on the first play from scrimmage after a bad punt snap gave the Bears a safety.
After Riverbend’s 12-play drive stalled on the Manchester 17 early in the fourth quarter, the Lancers seemed poised to put the game away. They had a first-and-goal at the Bears’ 9, but an offensive face mask flag pushed them back, and Akil Harris intercepted Clark in the end zone.
From there, Lowe led an 11-play drive, hitting Tony Skinner with four passes before connecting on an 8-yard TD with Croyle with 1:40 left.
The Bears then recovered Austin Davis’ onside kick after it squirted away from a Lancer on the wet grass.
Facing a moving clock and a tiring Manchester defense, Riverbend ran for three first downs and gained another on a holding penalty. Lowe scrambled to the 5 on first and goal, but a draw play to Bryan Melara and an incomplete pass intended for Harris left the Bears with one final play.
They lined up three receivers to the left, but Lowe lobbed a fade pass for the 6-f00t-3 Croyle to the back right corner of the end zone. Hamilton leaped and batted it away.
Manchester ended Riverbend’s season with a 37–28 second-round playoff victory in 2016. The Bears were hoping for revenge Friday, and they’re confident they may see the Lancers again in November.
“I call this round one. Round two will come later,” Riverbend coach Tony DeMarco said. “... We will come out better for this game. We’ve got more tough games ahead.”
M—Brendon Clark 35 run (Jake Lero kick).
M—Lero 25 field goal.
R—Safety, ball snapped out of end zone.
R—Jarren Holmes 80 pass from Madden Lowe (Austin Davis kick).
M—Collin Harding 14 pass from Clark (kick blocked).
M—Isaiah Todd 12 run (Lero kick).
R—Josh Croyle 8 pass from Lowe (Davis kick).
RUSHING: Manchester—Brendon Clark 9–76, 1 TD; Jayson Glover 12–42; Isaiah Todd 6–30, 1 TD; Kevin Henderson 5–30; Zach Bowman 1–1; Team 2-(minus 19). Riverbend—Bryan Melara 24–73; Madden Lowe 8–42; Akil Harris 1–3; Matt White 1–(minus 1).
PASSING: Manchester—Clark 16–24–2, 169 yards, 1 TD. Riverbend—Lowe 16–31–1, 178 yards, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING: Manchester—Collin Harding 6–53; Bowman 3–40; Glover 2–28; Alston Robinson 2–26; Val West 2–12; Jonathan Rose 1-(minus 1). Riverbend—Jarren Holmes 4–95, 1 TD; Tony Skinner 5–42; Josh Croyle 2–21, 1 TD; Logan Treiber 3–16; Harris 1–2; Melara 1–2.