Raiders put game away in the fourth
A series of third-down conversions secure a season-opening win for Reynolds
GRESHAM Reynolds quarterback Xavier Smith was cool under pressure Friday night to lead the Raiders to a 45-28 season-opening win over Churchill.
The Raiders were clinging to a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter when Smith took the snap on third down, rolled around the right side and took on three tacklers to move the chains. The next play saw him zip a first-down strike through the middle to Cameron Osborne, followed by a 17-yard strike to Cody Stallsworth.
In a few plays, Reynolds went from trying to keep possession to knocking on the doorstep.
Reynolds running back Anthony Pelster crashed through with a 13-yard scoring run through the middle.
Churchill's next possession fizzled with three incomplete passes, ending with Chris Vo breaking up a third-down throw that brought the punt team onto the field.
Reynolds put the game out of reach by converting a pair of long third downs, starting when Tate Blaylock dug his cleats into the turf to lose his defender, turning back for the catch that he extended into a 22-yard gain down the sideline.
We don't get that play and we're giving up the ball to a team who was moving it on us, Reynolds coach Dustin Janz said. Instead, we got the conversion and played with some swagger.
A few plays later, Reynolds faced 3rd-and-17 when Smith rolled toward the sideline, ran out of space and launched a throw deep downfield. He spotted a grey shirt that the Lancers had left alone, and Jesus Ortiz came up with the catch for 30 yards.
I saw everyone dropping off, kept my eyes downfield and looked for the open guy, Smith said.
Churchill's defense once again pushed it to 3rd-and-goal when Smith set up in the shotgun, pointed some instructions to the left side before racing the opposite direction untouched 6 yards for the clinching touchdown.
We made some big plays at big times and showed a lot of heart, Janz said. We faced adversity tonight and rose above it.
The Lancers drove inside the 30-yard line in the game's final minutes, but their last gasp came up empty when Reynolds lineman Jabo Nguyen dropped the Churchill quarterback for a loss on fourth down.
The Raiders got a quick start to the game when Jonas Ford returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score, and blocked a field goal to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
Churchill moved ahead 21-16 midway through the third quarter only to see the Raiders regain the lead less than a minute later on a bulldozer run by Pelster.
Reynolds kicker Jake Curletto 4 for 5 on extra points and hit a 35-yard field goal.
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