RILEY — Seconds after he made a crucial interception early in the fourth frame of his Riley County club’s season-opener against Rock Creek Friday night, senior Avrey Brockenicky collapsed in a heap in front of the Falcons’ sideline.
What looked like a potentially serious injury turned out to be nothing of the kind — just leg cramps. Still, it was enough to hold Brockenicky, one of Riley County’s most valuable weapons on both sides of the ball, out of nearly all of the Falcons’ ensuing series.
To work his way back into game shape, Brockenicky jogged on the sideline, back and forth, back and forth. Finally, when Riley County called timeout facing a second-and-21 from Rock Creek’s 36-yard line, Brockenicky — far from 100 percent healthy, mind you — took a swig of Gatorade and jogged out to join his teammates in the huddle on the field.
Seconds later, Riley County quarterback Garrett Harmison hit Brokenicky with a 36-yard touchdown pass, the duo’s third touchdown connection of the night.
Then, on Riley County’s very next possession, the pair connected again for a score, this one a 15-yarder.
That upped the Falcons’ lead to 41-27, enough to stave off the Mustangs’ late rally and hold on for a 41-34 win in both teams’ season-openers.
“I just feel like it shows that we have weapons,” said Brokenicky, who finished with six catches — four went for touchdowns — and 161 yards. “You look at Deon Barnes, our running back, he still combined for, what, 60 yards today? He’s a good player.”
Barnes actually totaled 48 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, but for now, that’s beside the point: A game that pitted last year’s Class 2A state runner-up (Riley County) against a team that went winless last year (Rock Creek) turned out to be far closer than last year’s results might suggest.
It started with the scoring, which came early and often. Rock Creek took a 10-7 lead into the second quarter, but by the time halftime rolled around, Riley County had rattled off two touchdowns, including a 70-yard hookup between Harmison and Brokenicky and another that covered 28 yards.
Yet when first-year Rock Creek head coach Shane Sieben diagrammed a play that ended in running back Brooks Whaley tossing a 17-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Charlie Killingsworth, the Mustangs had secured a 27-21 lead headed into the intermission.
“We go into every game with a couple tricks, and that was one of our tricks,” Sieben said. “We knew they were really overplaying, overpursuing on the jet (sweep). We had shown it a couple times, and they had really started to fly over the top, and credit Coach (Tyler) Wendland — he was the one that saw that.”
The problem for the Mustangs: they couldn’t duplicate the offensive production in the second half.
Instead, Riley County ripped off three straight touchdowns, including Barnes’ touchdown run and two more touchdown connections between Harmison and Brokenicky, seizing a 41-27 lead with a shade over six minutes left.
That provided the Falcons enough cushion to withstand one last Rock Creek score, a 3-yard touchdown pass from Killingsworth to senior Brandon LaRocque, and hold on for a win.
“In this offense, you have to spread the football around,” Riley County coach Steve Wagner said. “It was (Avrey’s) turn tonight, and when teams start paying a lot more attention to him, the way it works, is that should open it up for other people.”
The Falcons are already reaping the benefits. Junior Nic Allen tallied seven carries for 98 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown rush in the first frame, and sophomore Trey Harmison, Garrett’s younger brother, logged five carries for 37 yards.
That’s all certainly music to the ears of Wagner, whose club’s offseason losses included senior running back Mikey Waggoner, who shouldered almost all of the team’s rushing duties last season, and four of its five starting offensive linemen.
So put together, the longtime head coach couldn’t help but smile at the way his team moved the ball on Friday night. After all, the Falcons compiled a stunning 443 total yards.
The four flashy touchdowns Harmison and Brokenicky chimed in for the Falcons offense weren’t too shabby, either.
“Garrett did what everybody expected him to do,” Wagner said. “He had good leadership. When things weren’t going well, he kind of rallied the troops and made big plays.”
Riley County 41, Rock Creek 34
Rock Creek 10 17 0 7 — 34
Riley County 7 14 7 13 — 41
Rock Creek — Golden 22 field goal, 4:11
Riley County — Allen 77 rush (PAT good), 3:53
Rock Creek — Golden 11 pass from Killingsworth (PAT good), 3:24
Rock Creek — Whaley 47 rush (PAT good), 9:43
Riley County — Brokenicky 70 pass from Harmison (PAT good), 8:48
Rock Creek — Golden 42 field goal, 5:13
Riley County — Brokenicky 28 pass from Harmison (PAT good), 1:47
Rock Creek — Killingsworth 17 pass from Whaley (PAT good), 0:24
Riley County — Barnes 1 rush (PAT good), 5:02
Riley County — Brokenicky 36 pass from Harmison (PAT good), 9:59
Riley County — Brokenicky 15 pass from Harmison (PAT failed), 6:29
Rock Creek — LaRocque 2 pass from Killingsworth (PAT good), 2:37
RUSHING — Rock Creek: Whaley 5-50, Forge 19-50, Killingsworth 3 (-16) // Riley County: Allen 7-98, Barnes 12-48, T. Harmison 5-37, G. Harmison 9-19
PASSING — Rock Creek: Killingsworth 19-33-1 219, Whaley 1-1-0 17 // Riley County: G. Harmison 11-15-0, T. Harmison 0-1-0
RECEIVING — Rock Creek: Zenger 4-74, Gomez 2-54, Whaley 4-26, Golden 3-23, LaRocque 3-22 // Riley County: Brokenicky 6-161, T. Harmison 3-59, Allen 2-25