He may have hit one to define a season.
Harris connected on a 23-yard attempt as time expired to cap a 24-21 victory and improve the Knights’ record in Region 7AAAA (A) play to 3-0.
“I knew we were going to get it done” a smiling Harris said after the game. “We’ve got a great snapper and a great holder. When Gilmer started calling their timeouts, I didn’t get nervous — it just made me want to hit it even more.”
Harris may have taken his winning attempt with ease, but River Ridge (4-4 overall) certainly earned itself a challenge in the game’s first half.
Gilmer (6-2, 2-1) opened the game with an eight-play, 75-yard drive, finishing with a 26-yard scoring pass from Marlen Hensley to Austin Cole for a 7-0 lead just over 3 minutes into the contest.
Hensley completed 13 of 17 passes for 218 yards.
Late in the second quarter, River Ridge snapped the ball high in punt formation, and the error proved costly. Gilmer found the end zone five plays later, with Hensley and Cole connecting again — this time from 5 yards out for a 14-0 lead just 52 seconds before halftime.
Buzzer-beating plays must have been the theme of the night for River Ridge however, because, on the ensuing possession, Vince Njoku took a handoff on a reverse play and sped through the Gilmer secondary on a 52-yard touchdown run with no time remaining in the first half.
The Knights headed to the locker room down only seven, and they came out with a mission to start the third quarter.
“When you don’t have seniors year after year, setting an example for the younger players — it can be tough” River Ridge coach Robert Braucht said of his program’s youth. “It showed a lot of growth on the part of these kids (Friday) to not get discouraged and to take care of business.”
River Ridge took care of business to start the second half with a quick four-play scoring drive. Austin Terrell raced 59 yards to the Gilmer 13-yard line, and two plays later, Njoku picked up his second score of the night with an 11-yard run to tie the game at 14-all.
River Ridge had six running plays in the game that went for more than 20 yards.
Gilmer threatened to retake the lead early in the fourth quarter, but on first-and-goal at the 3, Chris Robinson intercepted a Hensley pass at the edge of the end zone to preserve the tie score.
The Knights took advantage of the turnover with an 80-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 26-yard run by E.J. Ellis to take their first lead at 21-14. Ellis finished the night with 92 yards on 15 carries.
Gilmer answered with a drive of its own of equal yardage and tied the game again at 21-all when Hensley connected with Cameron Kephart on a wheel route for a 31-yard touchdown.
That was the end of the Bobcats’ success on offense, though, as River Ridge recovered a Gilmer fumble at the 24-yard line with 2:10 left to play, which set up Harris’ winning kick.
“We talked about getting 11 men to fly to the ball, believing that each one is the one that has to make the tackle” Braucht said. “They’re starting to buy in.”
For River Ridge, the win kept it atop the subregion, before next week’s game at Pickens. The winner of that game will clinch the No. 1 seed ahead of the Nov. 9 region play-in game.