By THOMAS COSTIGAN
When opportunity knocks, the Riverside football team was more than happy to answer the door.
The opportunistic Rams defense stymied the Deer Park Stag attack for most of the game and came away with a 21-16 win on Friday.
The Riverside win snapped a five-game losing streak to Deer Park and improved the Rams’ overall record to 1-1. Deer Park fell to 1-1.
“That was a pretty exciting rivalry game,” said Riverside head coach Tom Griggs, who saw his team force five turnovers over the course of the game. “We capitalized on the shots we got.”
Scoreless for most of the first half, it was the Rams who struck first on a 58-yard drive late in the second quarter. The six-play drive, all on the ground, was capped off by a 7-yard run by Riverside quarterback Sam Zanoni.
The Rams waste little time extending their lead to 14-0 with a five-play drive after Tucker Lee recovered a fumble on their own 44-yard line. The quick march was highlighted by a 35-yard pass play from Zanoni to Dallas Shuler. The pair teamed up two plays later on a 25-yard scoring toss.
The Stags opened up the second half with a 58-yard drive that was capped off by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Nic Clough to Theron Taylor.
Deer Park, however, could not catch up to the Rams as the Riverside defense intercepted three passes, two by Rhett Hardan, in the second half.
Griggs, who saw the Rams win only two games in his first year as head coach last season, said his team gained invaluable confidence last week in a hard fought 27-14 loss to Timberlake a week earlier.
The Rams showed off some of that confidence late in the third quarter with a 65-yard drive, featuring Zanoni and tailback Jacob Collins running skills. The drive ended with a 34-yard bolt through the Stag defense by Zanoni.
Deer Park managed to cut the lead to 21-14 when Quinton Fletcher snagged a deflected Clough pass in the back of the endzone with 6:30 to play.
The Stags drove inside Ram territory on their final two drives only to come up short both times.
Riverside conceded a safety when Zanoni purposely ran out of the end zone in the game’s final seconds.
Collins finished with 123 yards rushing on 23 carries. Zanoni, who intentionally gave up 20 yards rushing the game’s final minute to eat up most of the clock, finished with 79 yards on the ground on 25 carries.
Clough led the Deer Park attack with 159 yards passing. Tight end Travis Pierce was his favorite target with nine catches for 89 yards.
The Rams travel to Kettle Falls 7 p.m. Friday for their Northeast A League opener. The Bulldogs (0-2) are coming off a 13-7 to Tonasket.
Deer Park returns home 7 p.m. Friday to entertain St. Maries. The Lumberjacks had a bye last week.