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River Bluff Senior Night a happy one, Gators pick up 28-17 victory over Chapin

Gator Running Back Braden Walker eviscerates Eagle defense with 346-yard performance

Lexington, SC (James Bowers) - River Bluff’s game against Chapin on Friday night began on a bittersweet note. The Eagle-Gator contest marked the final home game for 19 graduating River Bluff seniors. The final-year players were recognized on the field alongside senior members of the Gator band, cheerleading squad, and River Bluff dance company. When the game got rolling, it was a junior that left his mark on the field. Running Back Braden Walker tore the Chapin defense to shreds, scorching the Eagle defense for nearly 350 yards and three touchdowns. Walker also made one catch for five yards. It was an excellent night for the multi-sport athlete who also competes for Ben Lee’s basketball squad at the Bluff.

The Gators got on the board first in the 2nd quarter when Walker capped a 95 yard drive with a 9 yard touchdown run. Coltin Hallman’s PAT gave River Bluff a 7-0 lead on their cross the lake region foe. Chapin answered with an 80 yard march that saw Conner Lehmann take it in from two yards to make it a 7-7 affair. River Bluff matched that Eagle drive, capping it with a 9 yard Walker score to take a 14-7 lead to the locker room at the half.

Chapin got the ball first in the second half, and though they marched deep into Gator territory, the RB defense held CHS to a field goal. The next Gator possession saw a rare miscue for QB Michael Rikard as he threw an interception that Chapin’s Sam Greer returned for a 31-yard Eagle touchdown. This gave the Chapin Eagles a 17-14 lead. It would be the only time that Coach Justin Gentry’s group would be in front all night. RBHS regained possession, and only a few plays later, Braden Walker dusted the Eagle defense for a 63 yard touchdown sprint to put River Bluff back out front by a 21-17 count. The Gators kept the Eagles off the board for the rest of the game. Walker added another long score; a 42 yard scamper to make it 28-17. This would prove to be the final count at the Swamp.

With this win, Blair Hardin’s Gators move to 6-1, with only a loss to juggernaut Dutch Fork blemishing their season. Justin Gentry’s young Eagles team drop to 4-3 with this loss. The Eagles are 1-2 in region play as they try to hold their own in their debut season as a 5A program.

Though Walker was far and away the star of the evening, he wasn’t the only solid River Bluff performer. QB Michael Rikard was an effective though seldom passer, completing 8 of his 11 tosses for 98 yards and a pick 6. Da’Mone Spencer had 5 catches for 63 yards, while Austin Murton, Tyson Trotter, and Walker had the other three grabs for the remaining 35 yards.

Defensively, Camden Grey led the hit parade for the Gators with eight stops and an assisted tackle for a loss. Preston Sansone and Austin Murton each made six River Bluff tackles, while Drew Beard had five tackles with two sacks among them. Austin Webber was also a member of the five-stop club for River Bluff.

Chapin’s offense was led by QB Roger Pedroni, who completed16 of 22 for 159 yards. Jaylin Thomas was his leading receiver with 5 grabs for 50-yards while Jason Graves and Taison Thomas had three catches each for 40 yards combined. Trey Lyles led the Eagle run game with 49-yards for CHS.

Defensively. Sam Beckett and Conner Lehmann led the charge with seven tackles apiece; Beckett added a sack. James Wells and Sam Greer each had six stops for Chapin with Greer also returning an interception for a 31 yard touchdown.

Chapin will return to Cecil Woolbright Field for an October 19 showdown with Lexington, the final game of their inaugural 5A season. The game will begin a two-game homestand for the Eagles; they close their regular season against Nation Ford High School of Fort Mill.

The Gators’ September 14 road game against Irmo was pushed back to November 2 due to Hurricane Florence. This means that the River Bluff Gators will close their regular season with three straight away games. The Gators will head to Red Bank on October 19 for a date with White Knoll, then visit Wildcat Hollow for the annual showdown against Lexington before the aforementioned contest with the Yellow Jackets at W.C. Hawkins Stadium. It will be a gauntlet for the Gators who are in the midst of a

renaissance year.

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