The Knights (1-5, 0-1) trailed 27-6 at halftime, but they rallied in the third quarter with 11 points.
“We made a push to come back in the second half early,” coach Robert Braucht said.
The comeback was spoiled, however, when Cedartown’s Israel Battle snagged a pass just before it hit the ground for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs (6-0, 1-0) were successful on a 2-point conversion for a 41-17 lead.
River Ridge responded with Steven Spears’ touchdown and 2-point conversion of its own, but the 41-26 score was final.
“There is no doubt the kids did exactly what we said we needed to do,” Braucht said. “That is why we made a stand to get back in the game.”
Standout running back Nick Chubb put the Bulldogs on the board in the first quarter with a 15-yard touchdown run after River Ridge fumbled away its first possession. Later in the quarter, Battle hauled in a 55-yard pass that made the score 14-0.
Chubb scored again early in the second quarter, but a missed point-after attempt left the score 20-0. After one more Chubb touchdown made it 27-0, the River Ridge offense started to respond.
With a 1-yard touchdown run by Spears, the Knights trailed 27-6 at the break.
A halftime, Braucht gave the defense some insight as to how to stop Chubb, who passed former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker and now sits tied for eighth in state history with 89 career rushing touchdowns, and told his offense to just keep doing what it was doing and hold onto the ball.
“The kids came back out and did exactly what we needed to do,” Braucht said. “We went down and scored, made an onside kick and got the ball. We controlled the ball. Quite honestly, that is probably the happiest I have been with our coaching and our players this season.”
The plan worked to some extent.
After giving up a touchdown to Cedartown on the second play of the second half, on an 80-yard run by Harrison Barnett that made the score 34-6, River Ridge stepped up.
It chipped away at the lead first with a field goal. Then, after the onside kick, the Knights added the touchdown and 2-point conversion, and they trailed 34-17 at the end of the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth, Battle made his one-handed grab in the end zone.
The River Ridge defense held Chubb, who played through the fourth quarter, to 176 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
Michael Lewis led River Ridge with 114 yards on 15 carries. Spears finished 9-for-20 for 121 yards and a touchdown in the air. He also added 32 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
Braucht said the Knights benefited from having the same lineup for consecutive weeks for the first time this season.
“They were fighting their butts off,” he said. “We had a few miscues early in the ballgame, but it’s like I said going into the ballgame, it’s the team that can take those miscues and exploit them, and that’s what happened. We were able to overcome those miscues and were able to outscore them in the second half. That’s the biggest thing.”