BIDWELL, Ohio — A rough start to the 2020 campaign.
The River Valley football team mustered only two first downs in the first half and fell behind 41-0 by halftime as visiting Wellston cruised to a 41-6 season opening victory Friday night in a Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division matchup in Gallia County.
The host Raiders (0-1, 0-1 TVC Ohio) needed 13 plays and all 12 minutes of the opening canto to successfully move the chains for the first time, but the Golden Rockets (1-0, 1-0) had already forced two turnovers and built a 21-point cushion by that point.
RVHS played turnover-free football the rest of the way, but mustered only 51 yards of total offense in the first half and 104 yards overall by night’s end.
Wellston, on the other hand, went without a giveaway in the first half and accumulated 341 yards of total offense before the break, a balanced attack that resulted in 201 passing yards and another 140 yards on the ground.
The 290-yard difference resulted in Wellston taking a commanding 41-point cushion into the break.
The second half was played under a running clock per OHSAA rules, with WHS leading by at least 30 points at all times after the intermission.
The Silver and Black forced two turnovers in the second half, the latter of which ultimately led to their only points of the night.
RVHS was forced to punt early in the fourth quarter, but a fumble on the ensuing receiving try gave the hosts possession at the Wellston 30 with 10:20 remaining.
The Raiders needed five plays to cover 30 yards, with Michael Conkle covering the final 12 yards on the ground for a 41-6 contest with 6:51 left in regulation.
The Golden Rockets — who churned out 225 passing yards and 372 yards of total offense by night’s end — posted a trio of scores in the opening frame for a quick 21-point edge.
R.J. Kemp started things with a 4-yard scamper at the 7:51 mark for a 6-0 lead, then Jarrod Wilbur recovered a RVHS fumble in the end zone at the 3:34 mark for a 14-0 edge.
Kemp hauled in a 66-yard pass from Jeremiah Frisby on Wellston’s next offensive snap, giving the guests a sizable 21-point cushion with 1:29 left in the opening stanza.
Jonathon Garvin added a 5-yard scoring run with 7:23 left in the half for a 28-0 lead, then Chase Ingalls added an 8-yard scamper with 5:34 remaining for a 35-point advantage.
Ingalls hauled in a 14-yard pass from Frisby with 2:55 left before the break, making it a 41-0 contest.
Both teams committed two turnovers apiece, but that was about where the similarities stopped. WHS claimed a 14-6 edge in first downs and was penalized six times for 45 yards, compared to two flags on River Valley for two yards.
The Golden Rockets outgained the hosts by a sizable 372-104 overall margin, including a 225-0 advantage through the air.
Conkle paced the Silver and Black with 89 rushing yards on 18 carries, followed by Will Hash with nine yards on seven totes.
Justin Stump — who recorded a defensive interception in the third period — was 0-for-6 passing, while Ryan Jones also missed his only pass attempt for RVHS.
Garvin led Wellston with 106 rushing yards on 15 attempts. Frisby completed 7-of-11 passes for 201 yards, which included two touchdowns and an interception. Kemp led the WHS wideouts with two catches for 109 yards.
It was Wellston’s first season opening victory since 2010, a stretch of nine games dating back to a 33-13 win at home against Jackson.
The Golden Rockets have won four straight over the Raiders and are now 5-2 all-time in TVC Ohio play. River Valley lost its third straight season opener, a first for the program since 2001.
River Valley also honored all of its senior fall athletes before kickoff on Friday night.
The Raiders return to action Friday when they travel to Rocksprings to face Meigs in a Week 2 contest at Farmers Bank Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.