BIDWELL, Ohio — Turnovers all too often decide football games.
The River Valley football team gave the ball away three times Friday night, as the Raiders fell to Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division guest Alexander claimed a 22-12 victory.
The Spartans (6-1, 4-0 TVC Ohio) marched down the field on the game’s opening drive going 57 yards on 12 plays in 5:21. AHS senior Mason Chapman capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, which was the 11th running play of the drive. Taylor Kimbrough completed the two-point conversion pass to Chace Harris, to give Alexander a 8-0 lead.
After back-to-back incompletions, River Valley (4-2, 2-2) was facing a third down on its first possession, but a 38-yard pass from Dayton Hardway found Mark Wray to keep the drive alive. Five plays later on a third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Wray found the endzone for six points. The two-point conversion attempt failed and RVHS trailed 8-6 at the 4:04 mark of the first.
Alexander needed just three plays to widen its margin however, as Chapman broke a 35-yard run for six points. Kyle Howard added the extra-point and the Spartans led 15-6 with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter.
River Valley was forced to punt on the ensuing drive and the Spartans were pinned back near their own endzone. AHS was forced to punt after just three plays, but the Raiders mishandled the ball and the Spartans recovered on the RVHS 42. Five consecutive runs by Chapman, the final of which went 20 yards, gave Alexander its third score of the game. Howard added the point after and AHS led 22-6 with 9:12 remaining in the first half.
The Raiders’ moved the ball 20 yards on their next possession before Lukas Thompson intercepted a pass and gave the ball back to AHS, but the score remained 22-6 at halftime.
The Silver and Black began the second half with the ball on their own 26, and had no trouble moving the ball. River Valley posted three first downs and traveled 50 yards before a lost fumble abruptly ended the Raiders’ possession.
The Spartans made their way back into Raider territory, before losing possession on downs, and RVHS took over at its own 36.
A three-and-out for both sides gave the Raiders possession back at the AHS 45, which was improved 15 yards because of an Alexander personal foul. River Valley moved ahead 15 more yards on a pass interference call, and a 14-yard pass from Hardway to Jacob Dovenbarger gave the hosts the ball one the AHS one-yard line.
Three consecutive running plays were stuffed by the Spartan defense, but a two-yard, fourth down pass from Hardway found Wray for six points. The two-point conversion pass was picked off by the Spartans and AHS held a 22-12 lead with 10:50 remaining.
Alexander marched down to the RVHS three-yard line on the ensuing drive, but two penalties and a Mike Williams sack forced the Spartans to punt. The Raiders completed just two-of-six pass attempts on their next possession and turned the ball over on downs.
River Valley was to have one more possession after forcing a three-and-out, but a roughing the kicker call gave the Spartans a fresh set of downs. Alexander ran out the clock, kneeling down on three consecutive plays inside the RVHS five-yard line, and the Spartans capped off the 22-12 victory.
“You just gotta correct the mistakes and move forward,” fifth year River Valley head coach Jerrod Sparling said. “Whether it’s a positive or negative experience, you have to be ready to play next week, especially in this conference. All you can do is move on, you can’t hang your head about it. Yeah it hurts, but that’s all you can do.”
Alexander held a 17-to-13 advantage in first downs and a 286-to-224 advantage in total offense. AHS fumbled twice, but kept possession on both, while River Valley failed to recover either of its two fumbles. Alexander was penalized 11 times for a total of 91 yards, while RVHS was sent back 25 yards on three penalties.
Hardway completed 15-of-27 pass attempts for 177 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while rushing eight times for 18 yards. Wray caught six passes for 81 yards and a score, while rushing 13 times for 24 yards and a score. Kirk Morrow caught seven passes for 67 yards, Dovenbarger had two receptions for 29 yards, while Justin Arrowood ran four times for five yards.
Chapman completed 3-of-5 pass attempts for 24 yards, while rushing 27 times for 166 yards and three scores. Trent Bradbury marked 57 yards on nine carries, Joey Barnes added 12 yards on one carry, while Taylor Kimbrough had 11 yards on eight carries and completed 3-of-7 pass attempts for eight yards.
AJ Marks caught four passes for 17 yards and ran three times for 10 yards. Thompson, who had the game’s lone interception, caught two passes for 15 yards in the win.
The Raiders have dropped eight consecutive homecoming contests and have lost to AHS in back-to-back seasons.
River Valley will look to rebound next week when the Raiders visit Vinton County. The Vikings earned their first win of the campaign over Federal Hocking on Friday.
“Every game in the conference is tough and it’s even harder on the road,” Sparling said. “Our guys have to move passed this and go fight on next week. We still have a great chance to get in the top eight, it’s not the easiest road for us anymore, but we’re in a position where we can still make a run at it. We’re going to give it our best shot.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.