ROGERS — In need of a spark to ignite a run after a mostly disappointing first five games, Rogers turned to Christian Riley, whose four touchdowns — three in the opening half — fueled the Eagles’ 43-7 win over the Clifton Cubs on Friday night at Merk Field.
“It’s really big,” Riley said. “It feels good to help my team out, help my team win a big game. It means a lot to us.”
After winning just one of their first five games and losing to Buffalo to start District 13-2A-II play, the Eagles (2-4, 1-1) were hungry to return to the win column.
“Starting with a 1-4 record made us want to work harder,” Riley said. “Some people give up. We just want to work harder to show what we can do.”
Riley showed the Cubs (2-4, 1-1) what he was capable of most of the night, finishing with 214 yards on just 13 carries. He had 140 yards rushing in the opening half, with touchdown runs of 55 and 13 yards, and added a 22-yard touchdown reception for his third score before the break as the Eagles took a 29-0 lead into halftime.
“I’ve been giving him a hard time,” Rogers coach Charlie Roten said of Riley, who had just two rushing touchdowns on the season entering the game. “He’s scored some touchdowns on special teams but hadn’t scored a lot on offense, so I’ve been giving him (flak) a little bit.
“It was good to see. He’s one of those guys when he gets loose, he’s a tough kid. He works really hard.”
Both teams got off to inauspicious starts, with the Cubs turning it over on downs after quarterback Riley Finney was stopped short on fourth-and-short.
The teams then exchanged punts, and Riley got the Eagles going late in the first quarter.
On third-and-short near midfield, Riley took off for a 37-yard gain that set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Christian Watkins with 3:08 left in the opening quarter.
The Cubs had a second failed fourth-down conversion attempt when Finney’s pass at the Rogers 24 was low, and the Eagles took over with 9:52 left in the second quarter. On the sixth play of the drive, Riley took an end-around handoff and found open field on a 55-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 edge for Rogers after Julian Lashbrook’s extra point.
On the ensuing kickoff, Clifton’s Tyler Anderson coughed up the ball, and Rogers took over at the Cubs 21. On fourth-and-short, Riley took it 13 yards for the score, and Riley Dolgener added the 2-point conversion for the Eagles’ 22-0 lead with 5:25 left in the opening half.
The Cubs lost their second fumble on the next drive, and Riley hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dolgener for Rogers’ 29-0 halftime advantage.
“With the adversity we’ve kind of had, the tough schedule we’ve had and the fumbles, especially last week, I think we’ve been a little tentative,” Roten said. “We’ve been waiting for the mistake to happen. But once we got it figured out tonight, we were rolling.”
And just to add a little more fuel to the fire, Riley broke free for a 68-yard touchdown run on the second half’s first play from scrimmage to put the game well out of reach.
“I was a little bit worried about our kids’ demeanor,” Roten said. “But they usually play well at home, and they did. They played hard defensively and got after it on offense. The kids played really stinking hard. They usually do. Proud of the effort.”
The Eagles next travel to district co-leader Franklin.
ROGERS 43, CLIFTON 7
Clifton 0 0 0 7 — 7
Rogers 7 22 7 7 — 43
Rog — Christian Watkins 9 run (Julian Lashbrook kick)
Rog — Christian Riley 55 run (Lashbrook kick)
Rog — Riley 13 run (Riley Dolgener run)
Rog — Riley 22 pass from Dolgener (Lashbrook kick)
Rog — Riley 68 run (Lashbrook kick)
Cli — Luis Rodriguez 13 pass from Riley Finney (Jose Ramirez kick)
Rog — Jeremiah Quinones 14 run (Lashbrook kick)
First downs 13 10
Rushes-yards 43-98 32-309
Passing yards 109 46
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-22-0 3-8-0
Punts-average 2-32.5 3-34.7
Fumbles-lost 4-2 4-1
Penalties-yards 1-5 8-60
RUSHING — Clifton: Finney 17-36, Tyler Anderson 5-31, Joe Taylor 11-24, Devin Bryd 9-11, team 1-(-4); Rogers: Riley 13-214, Dolgener 6-32, Alex Vargas 4-25, Quinones 3-18, Watkins 2-11, John Hill 4-9.
PASSING — Clifton: Finney 13-22-0-109; Rogers: Dolgener 3-9-0-46.
RECEIVING — Clifton: Rodriguez 7-70, Anderson 4-22, Byrd 1-9, Doniven King 1-3; Rogers: Jacob Glasgow 2-24, Riley 1-22.