RIVERVIEW — Twice previously this season, Riverview faced a likely playoff team and did not respond well.
Against Sarasota Riverview, the Sharks endured a bad four quarters in a one-sided loss. Against Newsome, a bad half doomed their chances.
But, against Lennard, with the Sharks' playoff hopes largely riding on the outcome, they delivered, producing a 28-21 victory Friday night.
"This is a game we wanted; we had to have — because we didn’t want to go the whole week on pins and needles worrying about ‘what if, what if?’ " Riverview coach William Mosel said. “The kids came out. We were focused. We were tough and we battled. There were times we could have folded, but we kept battling and the outcome fell our way this time.”
While no playoff berths were officially secured Friday, Lennard and Riverview (8-2) entered ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, in Class 8A, Region 2. However, Friday was the regular-season finale for the Sharks, who have a bye next week.
Lennard (6-3) finishes at home against Blake, a game unlikely to boost its RPI ranking significantly. Riverview’s victory will almost certainly move the Sharks ahead of the Longhorns, who were only two-100ths of a point ahead in the rankings and gives them a bigger margin on the bubble to work with.
Should Riverview earn a berth, it would be the Sharks’ first since before this year’s players were even in school. Significantly, the victory gives Riverview the best chance to avoid the region’s top two powers, Sarasota Riverview and Dr. Phillips, in the opening round.
“It means everything to those kids and to me to be able to get these seniors this because they grinded and grinded through tough years and listened to us and did everything we asked them — told them they needed to do to get to this point,” Mosel said.
And that included Friday’s game, when Lennard attempted a knockout blow in the opening minutes. The Longhorns drove 67 yards on six plays and 3 1/2 minutes, capped by a 21-yard run by Tino Hunt, threw a conversion pass out of the extra-point formation, then nearly recovered a squib kick.
Riverview’s Stazion Gage, however, found Devin White behind the corner for a 47-yard scoring pass and tied the score at 8. Gage connected with Kadeem Robinson on a 38-yard strike after an interception gave Riverview the ball in Lennard territory early in the second quarter.
After its first possession, Lennard struggled on offense — even though Hunt ran for 247 yards.
The normally sure-handed Longhorns, who were plus-3 on the season — and plus-6 over the past three weeks — in turnover margin, turned the ball over six times (five fumbles) and put the ball on the ground eight times overall — including on a fourth-quarter punt snap that set up Riverview’s go-ahead score with three minutes, 28 seconds left. Lennard also committed eight penalties, including five on offense.
"Our quarterback (Gavin Henley) came down with the flu, went to the doctor today and tried to give it his best, but, obviously wasn't," Lennard coach Matt Kitchie said. "We tried to go with other people, and they did their absolute best, but, unfortunately, Riverview bested us tonight."
Despite the self-inflicted wounds, Lennard led 21-15 and had the ball with 7:23 remaining thanks to a pair of second-half touchdowns by Davian Papius — both coming on fourth-down runs of 6 and 43 yards. But a personal foul and a holding penalty stalled the drive and a bad punt snap gave Riverview the ball at the 13.
David Haynes took care of the rest on one carry for Riverview, which tacked on a meaningless six points when White recovered a fumble in the end zone on the game's final play.
Notables: This is the Sharks’ first winning season since 2007. ... The six turnovers produced give Riverview 33 for the season. ... Lennard has already secured the fourth winning season in the program’s brief history and can still match the program record for most wins in a season (8, 2014).... Including Lennard, four District 8 teams are in position to make the playoffs. Newsome and Sarasota Riverview are the others.