RILEY — Even after two redzone sacks and a fumble on their own side of the field, it still felt like Riley County had a chance to upset the undefeated Rossville Bulldogs.
And even after Rossville took a two-score lead with a one-play, 81-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, it never felt like the Falcons were out of it.
Rossville would hold on to that two-score lead though, beating an improving Riley County team 27-14 on the road.
Riley County coach Steve Wagner said his team continues to play better.
“The boys are playing hard, they are practicing better every week, we really are,” he said. “Against these types of teams, you have to play a really clean game, you can’t have turnovers, you can’t have penalties, and we’ve got to get better at tackling for one thing.”
It was one play after the second redzone sack that a few missed tackles turned into an 81-yard touchdown run for Rossville’s Thatcher Horak. It was a deflating play that put the Bulldogs ahead by two scores.
But it was even more deflating that it came one play after the Falcons were sacked to end a drive that would have potentially tied the game.
As time was expiring in the first half, Riley County quarterback Bryce Chavis was dragged down at the Rossville 11-yard line, spoiling a chance to cut into the Bulldogs’ 21-6 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, down 21-14, Chavis was sacked on a fourth down play at Rossville 19 to end yet another drive.
Wagner said there were lessons to be learned from the sacks.
“We’ve got to close our splits down and be able to maintain blocks,” he said. “We know teams are going to blitz in that situation, they’re going to come after us, and it would help us if, inside that area, we could run the football. You’ve got to be able to run the football and you’ve got to be able to go toe-to-toe.”
There were other missed opportunities in the game too. The young Riley County receiving corps dropped a few wide-open passes, and there were narrow misses on long passes that could have resulted in scores.
Another one came on the ensuing drive after the Falcons pulled within seven points at 21-14, when Jacey Buss picked off a pass from Rossville quarterback Dalton Catron.
Riley County went 3-and-out after the interception, missing out on a chance to move down the field and tie the game.
Wagner said despite the loss, the team has not lost confidence after the 0-4 start.
“Our guys have kept their heads up and our last two weeks have been our best practices and we have gotten better,” he said. “It’s difficult in football how much you lose and gain confidence, it can come and go on just one play. Every team we have played so far has been undefeated, and we knew it would be tough.”
Rossville opened the game with a 3-yard touchdown run from Catron to go ahead 7-0, and Chavis would answer on the ensuing drive with a 60-yard touchdown run. A missed PAT would leave the Falcons down 7-6.
Rossville would score 14 unanswered points before the Falcons got a 20-yard touchdown pass to Josh Brazzle in the third quarter, before Rossville scored in the fourth quarter on an 81-yard run.
Chavis led the Falcons offensively, going 13-of-25 for 138 yards, while rushing 21 times for 183 yards.