For the first time since 1985, Russellville took down Warren East on the football field 41-7 on Friday night thanks to a four-touchdown performance by running back Jovari Gamble.
Three of Gamble’s scores went for at least 47 yards, and his last gave the Panthers a decisive 27-7 lead at the end of the third quarter. Altogether, the senior amassed 228 yards of offense on just 15 touches.
“The first half we came out very light,” Gamble said. “But in the second half coach gave us a little talk. We didn’t really like it, so we had to come out here and put on a show. We just got a push on the line. Everybody was blocking tonight. We got some players that can play. Since we started out 3-1, we are going to keep going. This ain’t the end.”
The Panthers (3-1) did start the game sluggish on both sides of the ball after Warren East’s Ty Day scored on a 1-yard run to tie things up at 7-7 with 11:56 left in the first half.
But Gamble answered strongly by taking a screen pass from quarterback Lennon Ries 61 yards to the end zone with 6:35 left in the second quarter.
While penalties and a few turnovers kept the Panthers from further scoring in the half, they controlled the rest of the game with a dominant performance on the ground.
“We came in at halftime and all us coaches talked about what was going on,” Russellville coach Mikie Benton said. “From a defensive standpoint, our linebackers weren’t being aggressive enough. Kudos to Warren East. They were blitzing us like crazy and we had to make some adjustments. We saw some things we could capitalize on in the run game. We came out and our offensive line played great. Jovari Gamble had a monster second half.”
The talented senior immediately answered in the third quarter by notching a 56-yard scoring run and a 47-yard touchdown in the third quarter to take a 27-7 lead into the final period.
Warren East (1-3) started the second half with a quarterback change in the hopes of swinging the game. However, the Panther secondary recorded a strong performance by forcing four interceptions on the night.
Ries would notch another passing score in the fourth quarter by hitting Josh McMurry for a 35-yard touchdown.
That was quickly followed by a Jaquis Todd 35-yard interception return for a score with eight minutes left in the game. After that point, the Panthers led 41-7 and cruised the rest of the way.
“It’s huge for us,” Benton said of the win. “I always tell everybody I make my schedule tough on purpose to put us in battle situations. I’m a Class A coach, and I look to put 4A’s and 5A’s on the schedule. We got Barren County in two weeks and that’s a 6A school. It’s something I’m putting our guys through to be battle-tested for the run we have a great chance to make in the playoffs.”
On the other sideline, there were not many positives for the Raiders, who were outgained in offensive yardage 344 to 155 on the night. Warren East only had 65 total yards in the entire second half.
“We just had breakdowns in every phase of the game: Offensively, defensively and special teams. And you just can’t do that,” Raiders coach Jeff Griffith said. “They took advantage of every mistake that we made. That’s what you get. We got what we deserved tonight.
“We got to go to work. We have played four games now, and we have struggled through every single one. I thought our defense played pretty well except for a play or two in the first half. But they can only hold up for so long. We got to stay on the field. The district games are what matters. We are going to go come back Monday and go to work. We are gong to try and go 1-0 in the district against Russell County.”
Warren East will take the field next week when Russell County visits the Raiders on Sept. 17.
Russellville will be back in action next Friday when it travels to Franklin-Simpson.
WEHS 0 7 0 0 – 7
RHS 7 7 13 14 – 41
RHS – Jovari Gamble 6 run (Dustin Brown kick), 2:01
WEHS – Ty Day 1 run (Javier Leyva kick), 11:56
RHS – Gamble 61 pass from Lennon Ries (Brown kick), 6:35
RHS – Gamble 56 run (Brown kick no good), 9:50
RHS – Gamble 47 run (Brown kick good), 0:00
RHS – Josh McMurry 35 pass from Ries (Brown kick good), 9:51
RHS – Jaquis Todd 35 interception return (Brown kick good), 8:03