Three Rivers senior running back Drew McClain (4) rushes through a pile of defenders on his way to the end zone in the second quarter of Thursday’s game against Adrian, which Three Rivers lost 51-30. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)
By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — It was the Chris Gilliam Bowl at Armstrong Field Thursday night, as the new Three Rivers varsity football head coach led his Wildcats team for the first time against the Adrian team he led for the last few seasons.
It was a sight that Gilliam admitted he had “mixed emotions” about.
“It’s mixed emotions, those were kids I coached for four years. I’m glad to see they’re putting the pieces together, and they’re a group of kids I watched grow up from seventh, eighth grade, and now they’re having their moment, and I’m proud of them for that,” Gilliam said.
The visiting Maples had their moment Thursday, using their experienced offense and pinpoint passing to come out on top in a high-scoring non-conference affair in Gilliam’s first home game in Three Rivers, 51-30.
“At the same time, I’m at a different place and I’m proud of our kids for battling tonight,” Gilliam said. “We played a very good football team.”
The loss drops Three Rivers to 0-2 through the first two games of the season.
Three Rivers got off to a slow start in the game after receiving the kickoff, getting a first down on a third and three, but on a 1st and 5, senior running back Drew McClain fumbled, which was then recovered by Adrian, giving them possession in Wildcat territory.
After an 18-yard gain on second down to get the Maples within the 25-yard line, Adrian faced a 4th & 11 from the Wildcat 25. After a timeout, the Maples’ senior quarterback Sean Parker uncorked a deep pass that was caught by junior wideout Thomas Dayharsh on the run into the end zone to give Adrian an early 7-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Luis Warmack got a huge return on the ensuing kickoff for Three Rivers, running past multiple defenders but eventually getting caught at the Adrian 28-yard line. However, the Wildcat offense went backwards on the first couple plays before a 14-yard pass caught by Heston Saunders gave Three Rivers a first down in the red zone. Three incompletions and an offensive pass interference call later, Quake was sacked on a 4th and 23 play, turning the ball back to Adrian on downs.
The Maples would capitalize on the turnover, getting a big pass play to junior wideout Isaiah Fox to start the drive to flip the field, then finding the end zone several plays later at the start of the second quarter on a 4th and goal run from the inch line to increase the Maple’s lead to 14-0 seconds into the quarter.
Three Rivers got bailed out a bit on their next drive, when an interception on a deep pass by Quake was called back due to defensive pass interference. That gave the ball to Three Rivers at the Adrian 28, and after a stuffed run and another near-interception, brought up a third and 10. Quake found McClain on a short pass, who then bobbed and weaved his way through multiple defenders, breaking a few tackles, and finding the end zone to give Three Rivers its first points of the ball game. The two-point conversion try was good, putting TR down by six, 14-8 with 8:32 to go in the quarter.
Adrian would score again on the ensuing drive, when junior wide receiver Carson DeKeyser reeled in a Parker pass for a 25-yard score to give the Maples a 21-8 lead.
After Three Rivers went three-and-out on its next possession, and the Wildcats stopped the Maples on a fourth down, Three Rivers tried to get something going before the end of the half, but Quake was intercepted by Dayharsh on a pass over the middle on a 3rd & 12 play. Starting at the Three Rivers 48, Adrian took only two plays to get inside the Three Rivers five-yard line, thanks in part to a 36-yard pass to junior wideout Isaiah Fox, and four plays later, they found the end zone on a seven-yard completion to junior running back Chase Henline to put Adrian up 28-8 going into the half.
Three Rivers senior wide receiver Luis Warmack (6) reaches up to catch a touchdown pass in the third quarter of Thursday’s game against Adrian (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)
Three Rivers tried to sneak an onside kick to start the second half and try to get momentum, and after some discussion by the refs, ruled Adrian had recovered the kick at their 47-yard line. Five plays later, Henline would rush the ball four yards into the end zone to give the Maples a commanding 35-8 lead.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, then held Adrian to a three-and-out. A good punt put the Wildcats inside the 1-yard line to start their next drive, and after a couple of rushes to get the ball to the 7-yard line, a bad snap by Three Rivers went into the end zone, Quake fell on it, and was touched for a safety to give Adrian two more points, 37-8. That would be the score entering the final frame.
Holding Adrian to another three-and-out on its next possession, Three Rivers drove the ball down to the 49-yard-line, where a roughing the passer call on a 3rd & 19 play gave the Wildcats life on the drive. A 13-yard rush by McClain and a 27-yard completion to McClain put the Wildcats inside the 5-yard line, and three plays later, a 10-yard pass completion to senior wide receiver Luis Warmack gave the Wildcats their second touchdown of the day. The two-point conversion failed, putting the Wildcats down 37-14.
Adrian would score on their next possession on a Parker 18-yard rush to make it 44-14, and Three Rivers would respond on its next drive with a nifty 23-yard touchdown pass to Warmack on a 4th & 11 play, adding the two-point conversion to make it 44-22.
Once again, Adrian would respond with a touchdown on its next possession with an 18-yard touchdown run by Parker to make it 51-22 after the extra point with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Three Rivers then got what essentially boiled down to a garbage time touchdown, with Quake finding junior fullback Tre Rohrer for a three-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game, making the final score 51-30 after the two-point conversion.
Gilliam said his offense had some big plays on the evening, but that his team needs to be more consistent on that side of the ball.
“We have to get a little bit more consistent. We’re just not consistent enough, and that just takes a little bit of time,” Gilliam said.
Defensively, Gilliam said his team has faced two very good offenses in Charlotte and Adrian to start the year, giving up 50-plus points to both, and that the defense still needs to get used to some players playing new positions on that end.
“We’re young, and some of the kids we have returning on defense are playing new positions. Just getting them more comfortable and acclimated to it, it’s going to take a bit of time. Unfortunately, we’ve played two really good football teams right out of the gate that have a lot of returning starters, and they’re exploiting that inexperience,” Gilliam said. “We’re going to keep working and we’re going to keep battling.”
He did have some praise for his defense compared to the previous week’s game against Charlotte.
“We were in our assignments better, and we tackled a bit better tonight, but that’s a four-year starting quarterback that was throwing dimes,” Gilliam said. “We had good coverage and they made great throws and great catches.”
Looking ahead to their next game against Niles, Gilliam said they will have to study the tape to see how they can win.
“They’re a good football team from what I can tell, they have a lot of kids that are in their third year on varsity, so they’re another experienced team,” Gilliam said.
Three Rivers defensive lineman Tre Rohrer (9) helps bring down Adrian junior wide receiver Isaiah Fox during Thursday’s game against Adrian. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)
Adrian outgained Three Rivers in total yardage 376-293 on the day. On offense, Quake went 19-for-35 on the day for 235 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. McClain was the team’s leading rusher, running nine times for 64 yards. Jace Gray had a rushing touchdown, going eight times for seven yards on the night. Warmack was the team’s leading receiver, catching seven passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns. McClain added four receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively for Three Rivers, Carson Beuter led the team in tackles with eight, followed by Landon Moreland with seven and Rohrer with six.
For Adrian, Parker was 16-for-25 passing with 209 yards and two touchdowns. Henline had 24 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Parker had two rushing touchdowns on nine carries for 71 yards total. Fox was their leading receiver, hauling in four passes for 78 yards, while DeKeyser had eight grabs for 66 yards and a touchdown and Dayharsh had two catches for 32 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, two players had four tackles each for the Maples, Donte Lester had a sack and Dayharsh intercepted a Quake pass.
Overall, Gilliam said he was disappointed in the loss, but proud of the effort by his team.
“We’re just going to keep working and grinding, because success isn’t a quick journey. It’s a long process,” Gilliam said.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or email@example.com.
Three Rivers football players rush out onto the field to start Thursday’s game against Adrian. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)