WESTON, Mass. – Playing its first night game at home ever, and with a large homecoming crowd looking on, no one would have blamed Rivers for stumbling in the spotlight.
However, when the lights got bright, the Red Wings got loose.
Rivers scored three touchdowns in the span of seven minutes, 50 seconds during the first half and held on to defeat Groton, 24-13, at Waterman Field. Justen Voghel led the Red Wings offense going 16 of 27 for 213 yards before leaving the game late with an ankle injury.
“Our seniors stepped up for a big, big win,” Rivers coach Daniel Keohane said. “We knew Groton was similar to us and I think in the first half we did a great job, and in the second half we held them off.”
The first half could not have gone better for the Red Wings. Rivers jumped out to a 21-0 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter, and it was the defense that stole the show. Groton was held to just seven points and four first downs in the first 24 minutes.
The Red Wings front seven were consistently able to get to Groton quarterback Arthur Jelin, who was starting his first varsity game. Rivers linebacker Nolan Kislauskis even got on the scoreboard, interrupting a Groton reverse and scampering 40 yards for a score. Rivers was also able to turnover Groton four times.
“Off the second handoff it bounced off the guy who was going to receive the ball, and it bounced up in the air,” Kislauskis said. “I just grabbed it and ran for the touchdown.”
The tone of the game changed in the second half and Groton began to assert itself. Jelin threw for 100 of his 114 yards in the second half and found Will Richardson in the fourth quarter.
Jelin threw for 58 yards on a last-ditch drive late in the game before it stalled inside Rivers' 20.
“I think at the end he showed glimpses of what he's capable of,” Groton coach John Lyons said of Jelin. “I think the more you see what's in front, and the speed at which it is happening, the more you realize where to throw the ball. That is going to happen with a young kid. So if that happens you tell them to just keep plugging away. It was interesting to see all his teammates come out and pat him on the back after the game.”
SKILL GUYS SHINE
Although just a freshman, Rivers' Jamari Venter looks like he has all the tools to be a premier tailback in the future in the ISL.
Venter rushed for 76 yards including a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter that let him show off just how much faster he was than his opposition.
While Venter did most of his damage between the tackles, his teammate Carlin Haymon burned Groton on the outside. The senior wide receiver reeled in eight balls for 138 yards.
“We have a lot of go-to guys in the offense,” Keohane said. “Jamari is an excellent back. Jamari and Carlin Haymon, he's an excellent football player; so we're really fortunate to have real tough guys.”
STERN HOLDS FIRM
Despite having to deal with Rivers' firepower for 48 minutes, Groton's Austin Stern seemed to be in on every key defensive play. The 5-11, 200 pound linebacker played a major role in containing Venter late in the game and registered four tackles for loss.
“He's the heart and soul of our defense,” Lyons said. “ He must have had 15 tackles today; he did very well.”
PENALTIES KILL GROTON
Groton did itself no favors last night by drawing major penalties at inopportune times.
There was a personal foul penalty on a third down in the first quarter that extended a drive and led to Rivers' first touchdown, and a defensive holding call that kept Rivers on the field late in the fourth.
The most notable was a holding call that wiped a touchdown off the board with less than three minutes left. Groton turned the ball over three plays later.