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Rivermen topple Arbutus Big Red

From the moment the teams stepped onto the field, the game was destined to be a war of wills. The Rivermen took a notch out of the defending Mason Dixon League (MDFL) champions and current No. 1 Arbutus Big Red’s (5-1) once undefeated belt to improve their second place standing at 4-2, with 9-7 victory.
With less than 2 minutes remaining in the game, the Rivermen’s defense proved its worth by foiling a potential scoring drive. The defensive style stalemate clash of the top two teams in the MDFL resulted in 202 total yards for the Big Red and 153 total yards for the host Rivermen.
Embracing their destiny as potential district champions, Rivermen head coach Dennis Cornwell said, “I was kind of speechless after the game — in the back of my mind I had a good feeling about last night, but at the same time, I knew we had a big hill to climb.”
Throughout the game, both teams seemingly never gave an inch; however, the Rivermen summoned their usual intestinal fortitude to prevail over their division rival in the remaining minutes of the game.
“Our guys are finally starting to buy into our game plan; if you play together, and you’re disciplined, and you play with heart, you will win every week,” Cornwell said.

An unsung hero in the form of kicker and punter Trey Hamlet kept his team in the game by kicking a 32-yard field goal late in the third quarter. In addition, Hamlet kicked the ball away from the Big Red’s speedy kick/punter returner Michael Corbett all night.
The Rivermen came into the game after a tough 19-6 loss to the New Jersey Broncos last week. The Rivermen will seek to avenge their loss when the Broncos visit Monroe Park Aug. 28. In light of the Valley Tigers’ recent fold, the Rivermen record will improve by one game due to their forfeiture. Life in the fast lane will be revisited on Sept. 18, when the Rivermen travel to the unfriendly confines of Arbutus.
 “It was the best win since I’ve been coaching; it was simply amazing and I am so proud of my guys,” Corwell said.
At the start of the game, the Big Red seemed to be invincible with their 50-man roster. The fire intensified during the kick off as the Big Red screamed and taunted the Rivermen: “Everybody knock somebody out!” Moments later, the Rivermen brought their screams to a halt with a jolt into reality. At the end of the half the score was knotted at zero, and brawl at Monroe Park had just begun to heat up. The crowd was in for a night of punishing hits that they will never forget.
“If you’ve never seen us play before, and you’re a new fan coming to the game, I think this game will bring you back,” Cornwell said.
During the Rivermen’s first possession of the third quarter, Rivermen Aaron Lewis bolted into Big Red territory with a 9-yard run to the 37-yard line. Three downs later, Gage Ford connected with Josh Steele for a 34-yard touchdown.
With the momentum favoring the Rivermen, the Big Red’s offense sputtered on their next possession. Ford methodically led the Rivermen down inside the Arbutus red-zone with two passes to Lewis. With less than 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Hamlet kicked a 32-yard field goal.
With a little over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Big Red opened up their offense with a 60-yard reception to Michael Brown.
On the ensuing Rivermen possession, the Big Red’s defense recovered a fumble on the 16-yard line. The Arbutus celebration was short-lived as the Rivermen defense quickly stopped them in their tracks with gang-tackling, and consistent pressure on the quarterback.
With 1 minute and 47 seconds on the clock, the Big Red were faced with fourth down and 25 yards to go for a first down. Arbutus elected to put the game in the hands of their kicker.
With the crowd standing on their feet, cheering defense, the kick nearly made its mark, hitting the lower cross-bar, and bouncing back into the awaiting arms of Josh Steele. Steele’s runback of 45 yards also resulted in running off precious time from the clock. Less than a minute later, after several traditional kneels, the Rivermen’s victory was sealed.

Leonard M. Banks
Sports Editor

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