OAKLAND — For much of the game Friday night between Riverside and St. Albert at Bulldog Stadium, the play matched the temperature: frigid.
However, the Falcons, carried by junior running back Connor Cerny’s big second half, topped the Bulldogs 27-6 in a Class A District 9 football matchup.
Cerny handled the ball on carries on the first 17 plays of the second half for the Falcons, including a 1-yard touchdown plunge to give St. Albert the lead early in the third quarter following the third fumble of the night by the Bulldogs.
“We decided at halftime that the way we were going to go was just downhill running and physical play,” St. Albert coach Pat Ryan said. “Our line picked up their play, and Connor was able to execute what we wanted to do.”
Riverside turned it over on its very next possession, this time with an interception. St. Albert powered down to the one, but ultimately missed a field goal. The Bulldogs went three-and-out and a short punt set up St. Albert with great field position once again.
Cerny capped off a seven-play, 30-yard drive with a 3-yard score off the right side to put the Falcons up 13-6.
On Riverside’s ensuing possession, quarterback Wyatt Hough (who was the starting tackle until this week) threw a pass that was tipped by St. Albert’s Jeff Miller and was deemed by the officials to be a backwards pass. Miller scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 53 yards for the score.
“The reps we got this week were very limited, so I knew we were going to be sloppy, but not that sloppy,” Riverside coach Darrell Frain said.
Riverside starting quarterback Austin Kremkoski — who had amassed more than 1,500 yards of total offense in the first six games — separated his shoulder in last week’s win and was not available.
Without its starting quarterback, Riverside fumbled four times and threw one interception.
The lone Bulldog score came late in the first half. After a 32-yard pass from Hough to Brogan Allensworth took the ball to the 2-yard line, Mason Bivens finished off the drive and gave Riverside a 6-0 lead at the half.
The loss drops the Bulldogs to 1-6 overall and 1-2 in district play. Riverside has been involved in a number of close games, but it hasn’t been able to capitalize.
“That’s been our season. That’s who we are, I guess,” Frain said. “We’ve been talking about it all year, you just gotta play the next play, the next practice. We gotta find ways to get better. That’s our main goal.”
Cerny capped off the scoring with a 48-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds remaining in the game. Cerny’s 23rd and final carry of the night got him to 200 yards and three touchdowns and provided the final 27-6 margin.
“In the second half we kind of see what we can do when we clean up our play,” Ryan said.
Even though St. Albert pulled away late, it was sloppy play by the Falcons that kept the game close in the first half. St. Albert had two fumbles and an interception in the first half.
“That’s really what we talked about at half time. The only people who were really stopping us were ourselves. Penalties and turnovers absolutely kill us,” Ryan said. “And we’ve had that throughout the season.”
In six second-half possessions, Riverside had three turnovers, two three-and-outs and totaled just 41 yards on the ground and 40 yards throwing. Ryan was proud of the way his defense clamped down after halftime.
“We put our defense in a couple of bad spots, but our guys on defense are now understanding when they play fast, and just react and go, they can make plays,” he said.
The win brings the St. Albert record to 3-4 and 2-1 in district play with a trip to Nodaway Valley coming up on Oct. 18.
“It’s just a focus back on our basic skills of what we are trying to do. Whether it’s offense or defense or special teams,” Ryan said. “(We just have to) get back to our basics, sharpen up our play, finish out our season on an uphill.”
St. Albert (3-4) 0 6 0 0 — 6
Riverside (1-6) 0 0 7 20 — 27
R: Mason Bivens 2 run (Kick no good)
SA: Conner Cerny 1 run (Sam Wilber kick good)
SA: Cerny 3 run (Kick no good)
SA: Jeff Miller 53 fumble return (Wilber kick good)
SA: Cerny 48 run (Wilber kick good)