UNDERWOOD, Iowa — Riverside might have earned a more surprising win last week. But its latest football victory was just as satisfying.
Dylan McClain intercepted two first-half passes — returning one for a touchdown — and Riverside rolled up 282 rushing yards while beating Underwood 35-13 in a pivotal Iowa Class A, District 8 game Friday night. The Bulldogs were coming off a one-point win over defending district champ Logan-Magnolia seven days earlier.
"We played even better than I expected,” Riverside coach Mitch Rice said.
Rice, an admitted “word-of-the-week guy,” had no trouble identifying one against the Eagles — “finish” — after his team blew a 14-point lead and lost 19-14 last year. The visitors reversed the trend this time, expanding a 14-0 halftime lead Friday to as much as 28-0 before Underwood scored early in the fourth quarter.
“We were able to finish and get that done,” Rice said. “That's what we did is we finished drives, we executed plays and we didn't turn the ball over. That was huge for us.”
Underwood (2-3, 1-2) committed its third turnover when Riverside senior Conner Rankin recovered a fumble to set up the Bulldogs' fourth touchdown.
Underwood's Adian McKee led all players with 92 yards on 17 carries, but the hosts struggled to score against a spry Bulldogs defense. Quarterback Colton Bristow completed a pair of long passes to Mitch Forrester and Preston Jager to set up his 1-yard keeper to make it 28-7, and reserve Alex Wade ended the game with a 58-yard run down the left sideline.
Riverside (3-2, 2-1) reached the end zone on runs from Rankin (88 total rushing yards), Zach Morris (72) and Brock Bentley (six). It also got 45 yards out of Travis Henningsen, who left with a leg injury in the third quarter.
“This means a lot; now our heads are even higher than last week,” Rankin said. “We're a bigger family. We're focused more on teamwork and family, whereas sometimes in (past years) we'd just be fighting and arguing.”
Riverside opened the game by forcing an Underwood punt, then traveled 66 yards to score six plays later. On fourth and four at the Eagle 35-yard line, quarterback Brad McGinnis hit Malachi Dillon on a slant route for a touchdown.
Each side then stopped the other on downs before Underwood found an offensive rhythm. But on a first-down play — the 10th of the drive — McClain intercepted Bristow and sprinted about 65 yards down the right sideline to make it 12-0 early in the second quarter.
Tanner Ford connected with Michael Bertacini on the ensuing conversion try to give the visitors a two-touchdown advantage.
The Eagles followed up with another long drive extinguished by another McClain pick — this time on the 14th snap of the march. Riverside's 6-foot junior — who later left the game with concussion-like symptoms — pulled down a fade attempt from Bristow after Underwood had reached the Bulldog 35.
Riverside, which didn't get an offensive snap in the second quarter until only 2:56 remained, strung together eight plays for 32 yards to all but end the half.
It outgained Underwood on the night 320-239.
The Bulldogs visit Class A No. 5 A-H-S-T next week in a game between district frontrunners. Rice said playing meaningful October football is a step in returning Riverside to area prominence.
“Nobody expects us to do anything,” Rice said. “We really knew this was a turning point, that if we could stay consistent and win this game (then) we'd have a shot at making the postseason. It wasn't a make or break, but we needed to win.”
Riverside (3-2, 2-1) .................................... 6 8 7 14—35
At Underwood (2-3, 1-2) ............................ 0 0 0 13—13
R: Malachi Dillon 35 pass from Brad McGinnis (kick failed)
R: Dylan McClain INT return (Michael Bertacini pass from Tanner Ford)
R: Conner Rankin 1 run (Ford kick)
R: Zach Morris 6 run (Ford kick)
U: Colton Bristow 1 run (Preston Jager kick)
R: Brock Bentley 7 run (Ford kick)
U: Alex Wade 58 run (no kick, time expired)
RUSHING: R, Michael Bertacini 3-17, Conner Rankin 14-88, Travis Henningsen 12-45, Dillon Malachi 1-1, Zach Morris 11-72, Brad McGinnis 1-40, Brock Bentley 4-6, Zane Loring 2-5, Otis Matejka 1-6, Andrew Deshong 1-2. U, Adian McKee 17-92, Cody Kingery 15-30, Mitch Forrester 1-(-4), Colton Bristow 4-1, Alex Wade 1-58.
PASSING: R, McGinnis 2-7-0 38, Tanner Ford 0-1-0 0. U, Bristow 3-17-2 62.
RECEIVING: R, Dillon 1-35, Rankin 1-3. U, Preston Jager 2-37, Forrester 1-18, Colin Opstvedt 1-7.