Riverside slips by as Panthers lose third in a row

Published 12:44 am Saturday, September 23, 2017

WILLIAMSTON — Northside came out of the locker room for the second half prepared to beat a Riverside team it trailed by two touchdowns at halftime. The Panthers went tit-for-tat with the hosting Knights, but couldn’t deliver the final blow in a 41-38 loss.

WATCH: Northside coach Keith Boyd opens up about the loss

Northside came oh so close, as has been the story for much of the first half of the season. It got momentum swings that were elusive in a one-score loss to Washington two weeks ago. It was the less noticeable things that ended up keeping Johnathan Clark just five yards shy of winning the game as the clock ran out.

“It gets mighty frustrating to find positives in near misses,” Northside coach Keith Boyd said. “We’re 2-3 and we’re a 5-1 football team. We just have not found a way to make the one play.”

The Knights, after falling behind for the first time, responded with a Nakwon Burns touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Riverside, now leading 34-30 mere seconds into the final period, looked poised to take over after forcing the Panthers three-and-out.

Then superstar receiver Jadakis Bonds mishandled Parker Boyd’s punt.

Tanner Alligood scooped it up for Northside. The Panthers took little time to cash in when Raydarius Freeman rumbled 28 yards into the end zone on fourth-and-1. It marked his fourth touchdown of the game and team-best 10th of the campaign. He punched in the 2-point conversion to put the Panthers on top, 38-34, with 6:34 to play.

Northside’s defense couldn’t make a stop, though, as Burns and Riverside marched down the field with ease. The junior running back gave the Knights a 41-38 lead, but left the Panthers with 4:46 to answer.

They couldn’t. Freeman did all he could as he rushed three times for a pair of first downs early in the drive. He again moved the chains in the red zone, making it by just a few inches, and the Panthers were bailed out by defensive pass interference on a fade attempt by quarterback Matthew Marslender. With only four seconds left, Clark was just one more block shy of winning the game in walk-off fashion.

“The guys did a good job being resilient. That was a big stand at the end of the game,” Riverside coach Asim McGill said. “… The kids kept fighting and kept playing.”

Riverside quarterback Brandon Beach looked to establish his team’s aerial offense right out of the gate. Northside’s secondary did well to defend the pass as Riverside faced a third-and-15 and potential three-and-out on its game-opening series. Beach lined up with three receivers on the short side, but threw a short pass to Bonds, who took it 36 yards for a touchdown.

Bonds’ production from then on out was scarce. After gashing Northside for 116 yards and three scores a year ago, the Panthers did well to guard the East Carolina prospect.

“We just wanted to put someone in his face. A kid with that athletic ability, you can’t back off six or eight yards and let him catch it,” Boyd said. “We don’t have anybody nearly as athletic as he is. We just had to crowd his space. Hopefully we can corral him and get people to the football.”

Northside, after getting a new set of downs thanks to a flag against Riverside, had Freeman carry the team down to the 10-yard line. It set up Johnathan Clark to knot the game at 6-6.

Riverside answered back with a similar play as its first touchdown. It was freshman Javion Griffin lined up as the lone receiver on the far side, though, and he hauled in a 37-yard touchdown to put the Knights ahead with a minute left in the first.

A Panther turnover to begin the second quarter gave Riverside the opening to extend its lead to 19-6. Freeman began the ensuing drive with a 32-yard run. Clark finished it with a 17-yard scamper to the right to cut the deficit to 19-14.

Bonds, lined up as a wildcat quarterback, found pay dirt for a second time on an 8-yard run.

Northside’s offense sputtered as it tried to respond by halftime, but Freeman ran for two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to give the Panthers their first lead, 30-27, with just over four minutes left in the third.

The Panthers are idle this coming week. Boyd said the players are eager to get back to work, though, and they will practice through their bye.