RILEY — From the opening kickoff, Riley County just looked like the better all-around team.
Looking to win their fourth straight game and second straight district contest, the Falcons opened Friday’s game against Marysville with a 70-yard kick return touchdown by Gibson Eyestone.
Before the first quarter at Hal Pritchard Stadium was over, Riley County already led 20-0, and the Falcons kept on scoring in a 49-23 win.
“You start off a game against a team that’s down a little bit, and you start off with a kickoff return, that’s big,” Riley County coach Steve Wagner said. “Gibson Eyestone is a fast kid, he shows up every day and that’s good for him, and we did a good job of blocking for him.”
The game didn’t just start off bad for Marysville with the kick return — it kept going horribly. The winless Bulldogs struggled to field the ensuing kickoff and were tackled at their own 11.
The Marysville offense was so immobile in the first half that the Falcons started nearly every drive on the Marysville side of the field.
By halftime, it was 36-7. Wagner said field position was clearly a key.
“We kept them pinned,” he said. “When you start on their side of the 50, it’s kind of like going downhill. It helps your offense and it helps your defense. Field position played a big role in this game.”
The Bulldogs offense did present a challenge for the Riley County defense, running out of the read option and throwing the ball in the direction of 6-foot-6 wide receiver Brady Moore.
But the Bulldogs reached the endzone just one time in the first half, after a desperation run from quarterback James Landoll, who escaped a sack and than trotted 14 yards to the 4-yard line. Landoll ran it in on the next play.
Wagner said Marysville was a dangerous team, and a scary opponent to prepare for.
“They’re a dangerous team,” he said. “We watched them on film and we were scared to death coming into this game. We see a lot of spread teams in our league and that did help us. We didn’t tackle as well as we would have liked to, but we thought we played pretty good defensively.”
The Falcons scored their second touchdown on a sneak play by Bryce Chavis form the 1-yard line. Chavis hit Trace Nelson with a 4-yard pass to put the Falcons up 20-0.
In the second quarter, Chavis had touchdown runs from 24 and 21 yards out on back-to-back drives to build to the 36-7 halftime lead.
Ian Eastes scored on a 14-yard run in the third quarter, and freshman Hunter Loewen scored a fourth-quarter rushing touchdown after the Falcons turned to their bench.
The win put the Falcons in the Class 3A playoffs after Rock Creek lost to Nemaha Valley 7-6 on Friday. Riley County will play at Rock Creek this Thursday with a chance to win the district title, and its fifth game in a row.