Battle of the Horns: Rams Defeat Stags

(left to right) Junior wide receiver Braxton Welch (#17), senior running back Gavin Jaeger (#32), senior lineman Wyatt Hotz (#77), junior quarterback Jake Gaffaney (#13) and senior lineman Austin Gallinger (#75) prepare for the snap. Hotz, Gaffaney, and Gallinger all scored rushing touchdowns during the Rams’ 24-6 victory over Deer Park last Friday.

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The Riverside High School football team defeated rival Deer Park 24-6 on Friday — earning the right to ring the Battle of the Horns bell for the third straight season.

After a Deer Park punt, Riverside’s offense got uncorked with a pair of lengthy plays by junior wide receiver Braxton Welch — a 21-yard catch from junior quarterback Jake Gaffaney, then an 18-yard run on a reverse. But the Stags’ defense stood strong, forcing the Rams into a 46-yard field goal, which Gaffaney converted with 5:06 left in the first quarter.

Five plays later, Deer Park senior quarterback Remi Scott was intercepted on a tipped pass. The home team again held their ground and Gaffaney missed a 44-yard field goal.

Scott opened the second quarter with a 39-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Tyzer Coffin, however, the Stags’ offense couldn’t capitalize, instead getting stopped on 4th-and-6 at the Riverside 26 yard line.

On the ensuing possession, Deer Park senior Issiah Eastwood intercepted Gaffaney. Unfortunately for the Stags, Scott fumbled on the very next play, setting up the Rams in a terrific field position.

After a 30-yard pass from Gaffaney to Welch, senior offensive lineman Wyatt Hotz plunged in the one-yard touchdown to give Riverside a 10-0 advantage.

That was the score at halftime, after Gaffaney’s 44-yard field goal fell just short.

The Rams opened the second half with a 15-play drive, taking a commanding 17-0 lead on a grind-it-out drive that ended with another one-yard rumbling touchdown, this time from senior offensive lineman Austin Gallinger.

Riverside head coach Buddy Wood said both Hotz and Gallinger started the season at tight end, but moved to the line, sacrificing offensive touches for the betterment of the team.

“They’ve been blocking really hard, doing a great job,” said Wood. “So that was more of a reward system for them, where we can get them in a package where they do get to carry the ball. Not necessarily passing them the ball as they would if they were a tight end, but they do get to touch it.”

Hotz said the coaches realized the need for a change and asked the seniors if they were willing.

“Austin and I wanted to do something to help win, no matter where we were on the field,” said Hotz. “The coaches asked us if we would do it, but we were all for it. We want to win games.”

The team first practiced those offensive packages leading up to the rivalry game, but Hotz said they may utilize the look going forward.

Deer Park got on the board in the fourth quarter with a rushing touchdown from sophomore wide receiver Gavin Carnahan. To cap off the victory, Gaffaney ran one in for a score with less than a minute left.

Wood said his team remained even-keeled in the season’s first true fall test — it was 38 degrees at kickoff — not letting their emotions get too high nor low.

“They were able to focus on their assignments and execute at a high level tonight,” Wood said. “I’m really happy with the way they responded to high pressure situations and didn’t let the moment get too big for them.”

With the triumph, Riverside has won three straight Battle of the Horns meetings versus Deer Park. The Stags were victorious in 11 out of the preceding 12 matchups.

Deer Park (3-5 overall, 1-4 NEA) will host Colville (6-2, 3-2) on Friday to close out the regular season, while Riverside (4-4, 3-2) will travel to unbeaten Lakeside (8-0, 5-0).

“Their offense is electric,” Wood said. “We’ve got to find a way to stop them or even slow them down.”

Lakeside has scored at least 28 points in every game this season, averaging over 42 points each time the Eagles take the field.

“If we can continue to grind it out like we did on that first drive in the second half — and keep their offense off the field — I really like our chances,” Wood said.

“We have yet to play our best game. I think that tonight was a step in the right direction. We’ll plan, prepare, work to get better and leave it all on the field next Friday and see what happens.”

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