Rio’s football season came to an unexpected end on Friday night when they faced El Camino. Despite the game lasting less than an hour and a half, it will go down as one of the most memorable Raider games in recent memory.
The kicked off with a bang when Rio set the tone with a big touchdown by Jack Cartwright. They quickly turned on the pressure and took a 21-0 lead.
The Raider offense was lead by quarterback Mitchell Dixon, not on his arm but his legs. Dixon was not afraid to take a hit, occasionally choosing not to slide and paying the price.
“(Dixon) showed he had that physically toughness and he felt like he was the biggest guy on that field so he had confidence,” said Coach Sammie Stroughter.
The hole only got deeper for El Camino when Rio ran in a 5-yard touchdown to put them up 28-0. Shortly after, Cartwright intercepted Eagles’ quarterback Dez Ortega.
That turnover set up Savion Ponce for an explosive touchdown run. He took the handoff, spun out of a tackle, and made one last move before busting free and sprinting down the sideline for a huge touchdown.
Later, El Camino made a mortal mistake by kicking off directly to Ponce who returned it for another score. The play turned out to be meaningless because of an illegal block in the back, but Ponce’s presence alone contributed to Rio’s dominant performance.
The Raider’s ground game played a key role in the win. The team finished with 372 yards of total offense, 218 of those coming on the ground.
“It was good to see Vinnie and Jack be able to finish runs down field and get to the second level,” Stroughter said.
With six minutes left in the second quarter, El Camino trailed 42-7. Visibly frustrated, a scuffle broke out near the Eagle’s sideline.
A player whose team is unclear committed a late hit which sparked a melee. As more and more people joined the brawl, Principal Brian Ginter ran onto the field yelling at the players on the sideline to stay back.
“Five seconds after the play (an EC player) just trucked me while I wasn’t paying attention after the whistle,” said junior Derrick Walatis.
A few fans and players ran onto the field, along with Stroughter who tried to calm things down. When players returned to their respective sidelines and order was restored, teams headed off to opposite sides of the field.
“Our coaches and principal did a great job of keeping our guys from crossing the 50 yard line,” Coach Stroughter said. “The guys that were across the 50 yard line, our coaches did a good job of pulling those guys off.”
Confused fans were initially told the game was going to forgo the rest of the second quarter and head to halftime. However after much discussion, the officials agreed to call the game.
“It sucks because my seniors got to lose a half and they will never get that back,” Stroughter said. “Some of those guys will probably never get to play football again.”
Senior Leah Roccuci’s senior project was scheduled to take place at halftime. The project had run all week and would have concluded at the game with EC and Rio students coming together to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
The presentation did take place, however it did so in the confusion after the fight.
Overall, a fantastic showing for Rio will be overshadowed by an unforeseen ending to the the night. The Raiders will finish their first season in the Capital Athletic League in sixth place with a 2-8 record.