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River Bluff wins first ever home playoff game, besting Conway 35-19

Gators will play Berkeley High in away game during second round of playoffs

Lexington, SC (James Bowers) - Blair Hardin’s River Bluff Gators parlayed an 8-1 regular season into the first home playoff game in school history. The squad made the most of the home field advantage overcoming an early deficit to beat the Tigers of Conway in a 35-19 decision at the Swamp Friday Night. The game was slowed by a brief power outage that occurred early in the first quarter, pushing the duration of the contest past the three-hour mark.

It was a cold, wet night at River Bluff High School during the historic game. Conway’s Tigers had the early momentum, opening the game with a marathon 10 play, 91 yard drive capped with a 3-yard scoring run by Michael James. River Bluff’s Antonio Gantt picked up a consolation prize when he blocked the Tiger PAT attempt, holding the Conway lead at 6-0.

The Gators did not produce on their first possession, ceding the ball back to Conway. The Gators defense managed to stuff Conway for a three yard loss on the next Tiger offensive play, and then the phrase “playing lights out” took on literal meaning when a brief power outage occurred at the stadium, plunging the Swamp into darkness. Though lighting in the stadium features like the press boxes, concession stands, and fieldhouse was back on within seconds, field lights do not revive so quickly. A delay of less than a half hour fell upon the swamp while those came back to life. When illumination did return to the playing surface, the teams briefly warmed up before play resumed. It was then that River Bluff took momentum. The Gators blocked a Tiger punt to take the football at the Conway 20. The possession lapsed into the 2nd quarter, and though marred by an offsides penalty, ended with a three-yard touchdown pass from Gator QB Michael Rikard to Riley Myers to give the Gators a 7-6 lead. Conway was forced to kick the ball away on their next drive, and RB extended the lead to 14-6 when Rikard hit Tyson Trotted on a 75 yard bomb later in the second quarter. An offside penalty by the Gator defense on 4th and inches allowed Conway to keep their next possession going, and some effective running by Michael James and Xavier Kinlaw set up a Kinlaw score with 2:06 remaining in the half. A two-point conversion attempt failed, and the score was 14-12 Gators as halftime neared.

Hardin’s group was not about to play conservative before the intermission, however. The Gators drove 59 yards to end the opening two quarters with another Rikard TD pass. This time his target was Austin Murton, pushing the Gator lead to 21-12 with just :34 left in the half.

Conway began the second half with an effective 75 yard drive that lasted over six minutes. Daquinton Grady found Keimonie Graham in the end zone from 12 yards out to make it 21-19. They were unable to force a Gator punt on the next defensive series, and Antonio Gantt picked up a three-yard touchdown run to extend the RB lead to 28-19. Following a failed Conway drive, Michael Rikard found a wide-open Fellers Wise, who sprinted to the end zone untouched for a 62 yard score. Conway never answered, and the final score was 35-19 River Bluff.

The Gators will travel to Berkeley next Friday to play a Stag team that defeated Irmo in the first round. Conway finishes their year with a 3-7 record.

For the Gators, Michael Rikard completed 7 of 11 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. His leading receivers were Tyson Trottier, who turned only two catches into 80 yards and a score, and Fellers Wise, who had 66 yards on two grabs. Antonio Gantt managed 167 yards on 23 carries. Defensively, Preston Sansone, Camden Gray and Adam Molnar each had nine total tackles. Each of these talented athletes also had a tackle for loss.

The Tigers enjoyed fine rushing from Xavier Kinlaw who had 168 yards on 19 carries. QB Daquinton Grady also ran for 69 yards to accompany his 51 yards passing. Kashod Benton led the Tiger defense with 8 stops.

The Gators second round game will take place at Berkeley High School in Moncks Corner. Kickoff is set for 7:30 next Friday.

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