East Bay starts strong, holds off late Riverview rally

East Bay is off to a 3-0 start for the second straight season.
In a battle of unbeatens, East Bay pulls out the 21-19 victory over Riverview on Friday night.
In a battle of unbeatens, East Bay pulls out the 21-19 victory over Riverview on Friday night. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sept. 17, 2022

GIBSONTON — Riverview came into Friday’s weather-delayed matchup with East Bay boasting a defense that hadn’t given up a single point all year. The Sharks, who have already won more games than they did in each of the last two seasons, outscored their first three opponents 158-0.

East Bay, however, wasn’t intimidated, quarterback Nathan Carter said. And on its very first possession of the game, that much was clear.

East Bay strung together four first downs on the opening drive, rushing for 50 yards as a team to set up Carter’s 14-yard touchdown run. East Bay’s offense, paced by Carter, continued to roll the rest of the night, rushing for 204 yards to pave the way for its 21-19 victory.

”He’s a lumberjack. He’s the type of physical quarterback where he’s going to bang it up in there and get us positive yards,” coach Mike Gottman said. “He complements our offense. I’m extremely happy with his play, and the offense.”

After East Bay’s successful first drive, Riverview came up short on its response when East Bay (3-0) blocked a 32-yard field goal. The Sharks (3-1) eventually got on the board in the first quarter with a 28-yard touchdown run from quarterback Aaron Turner, but the extra-point attempt was botched, and East Bay held onto its slim lead.

Thanks to Riverview turnovers, it only grew from there.

Late in the first half, East Bay defensive back Deanthony Caldwell picked off Turner — Caldwell’s first of two interceptions in the second quarter — and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.

East Bay took a 14-6 lead into the half, but the Sharks’ miscues only continued in the third quarter. East Bay took advantage of a Riverview fumble in its own territory, turning the opportunity into a 24-yard score from running back Armando Becceril.

“(We just wanted) to do what we do. We wanted to stick to our plan and do what we do — run the football, play-action pass,” Gottman said. “Control the game, control the clock.”

The Sharks attempted a comeback late, scoring 13 unanswered points on second-half touchdowns from wide receiver Harrison Hensley and running back Dontarious Shoats. But by the time Riverview cut East Bay’s lead to two, the Sharks ran out of game clock to finish their rally.

This is the second straight year East Bay has started 3-0, a streak that comes after several years of limited success. For Carter, who remembers what it was like to be on the other side, it makes wins like the one Friday even sweeter.

“It feels good. It gives us confidence going into certain games,” Carter said. “Because we always think, ‘Nobody can beat us. Nobody can stop us.’”