By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Yes, the George Washington Patriots are that good — and the Princeton defense made them look better.
Draven Riffe ran for 353 yards as the Patriots, the No. 2 team in Class AAA, surged past the Tigers 40-14 on Friday night at Hunnicutt Stadium.
George Washington (5-0) racked up 515 yards of offense to 196 for Princeton (2-4), which has now lost four straight after their 2-0 start.
“We couldn’t stop anyone tonight,” said Princeton head coach Randy Peek. “We didn’t wrap up, we didn’t tackle, we didn’t swarm to the football — and we worked on all that.
“We knew what they were going to do. We told the kids what they were going to do, and we didn’t execute. I’m very disappointed.”
George Washington head coach Steve Edwards Jr. said, “We were physical up front. We whipped them physically, I thought.”
Riffe has now unofficially run for 1,163 yards in five games. Edwards said, “Our game plan is to do what we can do, and if it’s working, we just stick with it.” He added, “Draven, he’s just a gifted ballplayer.”
Riffe said, “Our line blocked great, our quarterback threw precision passes whenever we needed him to, and our receivers were blocking on the edge great, too. And our defense played really well.”
Peek said, “If somebody gets a-hold of him and wraps up and brings him down — but we made him look like an all-American. We talked about swarming defense, and one person get a-hold of him and just hang on ’til we get more people there. And we just didn’t do it.”
Patriots quarterback Jonathan Alexander was just 2 for 5 passing but both completions went for touchdowns on simple flag routes to the back corner of the end zone.
Princeton drew within seven points on a 15-play drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Tahj Sho-Johnson with 5:58 left before halftime. Sho-Johnson’s point-after kick narrowed the gap to 14-7.
On the Patriots’ next possession, Riffe had a 12-yard gain nullified by a personal foul penalty on a teammate. He lined up and ran for 21 yards on the next play — going down only when one of his own linemen ran into him.
That drive ended with GW’s last pass completion, a 17-yard scoring toss to Jacob Jackson. The extra point kick was partially blocked by Princeton’s Hunter Christian, but wobbled through to give the Patriots a 21-7 halftime advantage.
Edwards said, “We needed to get another score. We had to stay ahead of them. ... It was very important for us to keep driving, and we were just fortunate that we got some big chunks there, and were able to put it in.”
George Washington took the second half kickoff and started out with consecutive penalties and a fumble on their third play. On fourth and one, Riffe took the handoff, spinning and fighting his way for a 12-yard gain. Jackson concluded the drive with a 4-yard scoring run.
Edwards said the second-half start “concerned me a little bit. It surprised me ... It just shows how you can get fooled. But they didn’t let it bother them, they didn’t let it stick with them. That shows pretty good leadership. The kids really pulled together.”
The Tigers bounced back quickly. Sophomore Jordan Jones ran the kickoff 51 yards, then added 11 more on first down. Sho-Johnson burst through a hole on the left side of the Princeton line and dashed 15 yards for the home team’s final touchdown.
Riffe added scored of 7 and 13 yards on the Patriots’ next two possessions to wrap up the scoring.
Jones ran six times for 70 yards and made first downs on his first four carries. He also gave up Princeton’s only fumble of the night.
Sho-Johnson gained 63 yards on 12 tries and quarterback Jay Palmer ran the ball 13 times for 31 yards — with two sacks subtracting 12 yards from that total. He was 0 for 6 passing.
George Washington ran 57 plays and made 23 first downs. Princeton earned 12 first downs.
Riffe said, “It’s just one of those nights where we had to come out and have the right mindset, coming off (a bye week), so we knew we had to play as hard as we can — and we knew Princeton would be playing as hard as they can, and they did. And we had a good game.”
Edwards said about Princeton, “They’re very disciplined in what they do. They’re a good Princeton ballclub. Their record might not (show it) right now, to the average person, but they are a good football team, and very dangerous.”
“We were fortunate to play some good defense tonight, and hold our own, and not give up too many big plays. The big play concerned me a lot tonight.”
Princeton will begin the second half of their season with a visit St. Albans next Friday night. The starting lineup may look different then.
Peek said, “Every position on the field is open. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate our kids and re-evaluate our coaches, and start from scratch on Monday.”
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Hunnicutt Stadium
George Washington.....14 7 13 6 — 40
Princeton........................0 7 7 0 — 14
GW - Draven Riffe 41 run (Reed Deer Kaleb kick), 8:09
GW - Austin Giacomo 5 pass from Jonathan Alexander (Kaleb kick), 2:21
PSHS - Tahj Sho-Johnson 1 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 5:58
GW - Jacob Jackson 17 pass from Alexander (Kaleb kick), 2:29
GW - Jackson 4 run (Kaleb kick), 7:03
PSHS - Sho-Johnson 15 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 5:52
GW - Riffe 7 run (kick failed), 2:35
GW - Riffe 13 run (run failed), 8:08
RUSHING — GW, Draven Riffe 35-353, Jacob Jackson 8-47, Jonathan Alexander 3-27, Zach Malone 4-61, Mason Blake 2-5. PSHS, Tahj Sho-Johnson 12-63, Jordan Jones 6-70, Jay Palmer 13-31, Aaron Saunders 5-27, Devin Allen 5-5.
PASSING — GW, Alexander 2-5-22 yds.-0 intc.-2 TD. PSHS, Palmer 0-6-0-0-0; Kirkland Perdue 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — GW, Austin Giacomo 1-5, Jacob Jackson 1-17. PSHS, none.