When the Carver-Atlanta Panthers played the Riverwood Raiders on Friday at Bill Hoskyn Stadium, the two teams had one loss between them. However, if you didn’t know that, you might’ve thought they only had one win between them.
The Raiders made enough big plays — including a late touchdown — to win 21-6 in an ugly but pivotal Region 6-AAAAA game marred by penalties, turnovers and an assortment of miscues.
With the win, the Raiders improved to 7-0, 4-0 in league play, inching closer to their first region title in a program history that dates back to 1971.
“We felt like whoever won this game would end up clinching the region,” said Raiders second-year coach Robert Edwards, the former Georgia and NFL running back. “We won ugly, but it’s a win. My dad always told me, ‘I don’t care if you win by one point or a lot of points, a win is a win,’ so I’m excited for my guys.”
In all, the Raiders were called for 15 penalties totaling 100 and Carver was called for three totaling 25. Carver had two turnovers plus two turnovers on downs, and Riverwood had an interception and four turnovers on downs. Carver had three bad snaps for minus-34 yards, two in a crucial point in the game.
For the Panthers (5-2, 3-1), it was a struggle from the get-go as they were forced to play without their best player in four-star running back and Mississippi State commit Jo’Quavious Marks who, according to one source, was out with an MCL sprain. He was seen on the sidelines in crutches and a noticeable limp.
The Panthers were forced to reinvent themselves without Marks, who had rushed for 1,387 yards and 20 touchdowns through the team’s first six games. With Marks, they were almost exclusively a run team, averaging 360.2 yards while attempting just 45 passes on the year. They rolled the dice in the passing game and their first two drives ended in interceptions, including one on the game’s first play.
Despite the turnovers, it was the Panthers who scored first, with their only points coming on a 12-yard pass from Amari Jones to Kiontae Strozier, which came on fourth-and-goal with 4:17 left in the half. After a bad snap on the extra point attempt, the run failed.
The Raiders would respond with 21 unanswered points, first on the ensuing drive when, on third-and-21, Avery Smith pulled back on a play-action fake and tossed a 75-yard touchdown to Austin Simmons.
Simmons finished with six catches for 183 yards.
With 1:02 left in the third quarter, Smith found Jonathan Brown for a 12-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-6 lead.
That score would hold nearly until the game’s end as both teams struggled to take control. Carver would punt twice and turn the ball over on downs twice in its final possessions. Inside five minutes to go, the Panthers had a first-and-goal from the 8, but two consecutive bad snaps immediately had them facing third-and-goal from the 27. They would turn the ball over on downs.
With 1:34 left in the game, Riverwood’s Tyler Rowe broke a 51-yard run to seal the win and bring the score to its final margin.
“That last run by Tyler was big,” Edwards said. “It gave us a cushion and kind of made them throw in the white flag.”
Jones finished 10-of-18 passing for 234 yards and two scores to one interception.
Carver-Atlanta 0 6 0 0 — 6
Riverwood 0 7 7 7 — 21
C — Kiontae Strozier 12 pass from Amari Jones (run failed)
R — Austin Simmons 75 pass from Avery Smith (Nathan West kick)
R — Jonathan Brown 12 pass from Smith (West kick)
R — Tyler Rowe 51 run (West kick)
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