Not everybody can win or contend for a state championship. River Oaks has fallen into that category this season.
On top of a shortage of numbers, the Mustangs have had their fair share of injuries while competing as the smallest school in the MSAIS Class 4A classification.
Predictably, the obstacles have reflected on their record, but don’t judge the Mustangs solely by on-field results. Though there have been sundry available excuses to fall back on, the Silver & Blue have refused to throw in the towel. Isn’t building character supposed to be what high school sports are all about?
At last, the Mustangs were rewarded for their diligence in a 17-6 upset victory over Class 5A Copiah on Friday night in Gallman, Miss.
“We played hard enough to win, and took advantage of their mistakes,” said River Oaks coach Robert Hannah, whose team snapped a six-game losing streak. “It was a great win for the kids. They needed it and deserved it.”
River Oaks went up 7-0 in the first quarter on Drake Tannehill’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Nick Parrino.
Franklin Simpson’s 28-yard run and Parrino’s PAT doubled the lead to 14-0 at the midway point.
Being ahead at halftime wasn’t new to the Mustangs. The season-long pattern has been to play a strong first half, only to falter in the second half. Last week’s game against Glenbrook was a prime example as the Mustangs carried a 23-13 lead into the break in an eventual 34-23 loss. Again, that goes back to the lack of numbers and depth.
“We have been in most our games,” Hannah said. “Last week at halftime, we were winning, and didn’t find a way to finish.”
Cameron Chandler’s four-yard fourth quarter run, which brought the Colonels within 14-6, likely gave the Mustangs a feeling of dé·jà vu all over again.
But this time, the Silver & Blue would find a way to finish.
Parrino’s 27-yard field goal made it a two possession game, 17-6.
Defensive ends Matthew Henson and Kolby Gregory brought consistent pressure to hinder Copiah’s passing game, and the Mustangs created three turnovers on interceptions by Garrett Dunn (2) and Miguel Gonzalez.
River Oaks managed only 166 yards (97 rushing, 67 passing) of total offense, but was turnover free.
“I saw some people step up and play harder than they have in the past,” Hannah said.
Hannah has certainly coached more gifted teams during his 26-year tenure at the school on Finks Hideaway Road, but it’s doubtful that he has ever been prouder of a group of Mustangs than he was Friday night.
“These guys have been through a lot,” Hannah said. “I have seen more (injured) ankles this season than I have in awhile. There has been a lot of adversity, and we have played a tough schedule. They could have given up, but they didn’t. They found a way, and I’m excited for them.”
River Oaks (2-7) closes out its regular season schedule at home against district rival Brookhaven (Miss.) on Friday night. Senior Night ceremonies will take place prior to the game.
By the Numbers
RO ……………………….…… CA
11 …….. First downs ……..…. 9
97 …….. Rushing yards …..… 68
69 …….. Passing yards …..… 82
10-7-0 .. Passes (A-C-I) …… 17-7-3
2-40 ….. Punts-avg. ……….... 2-35
1-0 …… Fumbles-lost …....… 1-0
River Oaks …………… 7 7 0 3—17
Copiah ……………….. 0 0 0 6—6
RO—Nick Parrino 34-pass from Drake Tannehill (Parrino kick)
RO—Franklin Simpson 28-run (Parrino kick)
CA—Cameron Chandler 4-run (kick failed)