The Colonels did that Friday night on the road with a 24-12 victory over River Ridge to improve to 3-5 on the season.
“It was a total team effort,” Cass head coach Rick Casko said. “We were prepared for [River Ridge]. I think our staff did a great job in preparation and we were ready for them.
“The kids had an excellent week of practice, so it’s exciting to win because the kids prepared hard all week.”
The Colonels defense was the most impressive unit on the field for either side. River Ridge was held without a touchdown in the second half and went three-and-out five times in the game.
“We played Gilmer last week, which is a similar offense,” Casko said. “Gilmer is similar as far as their speed and the buck sweep, so having Gilmer the week before prepared us.”
Cass scored on its first possession of the game on a long 13-play drive that featured a balance between the running and passing games. Freshman quarterback Trevor Lowe went 4-for-5 on the drive for 53 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Justin Reed on a fourth-and-12.
Reed leaped over two River Ridge defenders to make the catch, displaying the rebounding skills he shows as a basketball player for Cass.
Kelin Wells had an important 10-yard run on the drive to gain a first down on a third-and-four. Colin Rogers also had a 25-yard run to break into River Ridge territory.
However, the most important sign for Cass on that first drive was how the freshman quarterback got off to a good start.
“He started out well and completed passes early,” Casko said of Lowe. “I’m just real pleased with his competitiveness. He ran the ball well, too, and he ran our offense well.”
The Colonels would strike again early in the second quarter when Chaz Rokins ran the ball in from four yards out to give his team a 14-0 lead. The scoring drive lasted 10 plays and overcame two penalties.
Lowe was once again productive on the drive. He ran three times for 13 yards, including a crucial 3-yard run on fourth-and-two. He also completed a pass for 22 yards to Wells, and his second attempt resulted in a pass interference call and a first down.
“He’s improved week by week. It’s amazing to see how much better he’s reading the defense,” senior offensive tackle Drake Eddy said of his quarterback. “It’s just amazing. He’s going to be a good little player when he grows up.”
Eddy and his offensive line also were a big reason why Cass started strong offensively. The unit opened up holes for Colin Rogers in the ground game as he ran for 73 of his 86 yards in the first half.
“Our lineman did a great job of moving the line and both backs ran the ball extremely hard,” Casko said, referring to Rogers and Rokins. “I really challenged [Rogers] this week and he stepped up. They both did a great job of running the football.”
River Ridge, however, did not quit after falling behind 14 points and scored on their ensuing drive.
Each team then traded three-and-outs until the end of the half when Cass put kicker Pablo Dolores in position to kick a 34-yard field goal just before halftime. The junior knocked it through to give the Colonels a 17-7 lead at halftime.
The second half did not start well for Cass. After a three-and-out, River Ridge went on a 12-play, 63-yard drive, but settled for a field goal. However, that would be the last sustained drive of the game for River Ridge as its offense managed just 59 yards the rest of the half.
Meanwhile, Cass had not moved the ball much either but, more importantly, turned the ball over just once in the game. The Colonels came into the game committing 16 turnovers in their previous four games. The tendency for turning the ball over is why they only threw three times in the second half in an effort to protect the football.
“We did some things. We simplified a little more. We were looking to do what we felt would work, so we didn’t have to do a lot of things,” Casko said when asked how his team prevented turnovers. “Eliminating mistakes makes the game go in your favor.”
The Colonels did add a touchdown to ensure the victory in the fourth quarter. Reed scored his second of the game, this time on a 14-yard end-around running play on fourth-and-seven to make the score 24-10 with just 3:27 remaining. Rokins had a 34-yard run on the drive. Rogers carried the load in the first half, but Rokins finished the game with 51 of his 60 rushing yards coming in the second half.
Reed finished with two catches for 43 yards, the touchdown run and five tackles on defense, including a sack. Fellow senior defensive end Montavious Parker added four tackles and a sack of his own to the defensive effort.
The Colonels did take a safety as part of a strategy to eat up the clock in the final minute of the game to give River Ridge 12, but the outcome had already been decided.
“It was important, not just for me, but for the team. It shows that we haven’t given up this season,” Eddy said. “We are a lot better than our record shows, and I think we showed that tonight.”
The Colonels will move on to play Cedartown at home next Friday in another region matchup.