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Riordan overcomes penalties, improves to 2-0

King-Njhsanni Wilhite (1) stiff arms Tamalpais safety Will Richardson (12) during the third quarter of Riordan's 48-26 win over the Hawks in Mill Valley, Calif. on Sept. 10, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

The Riordan Crusaders followed up their season-opening win with another lopsided victory on Saturday, defeating the Tamalpais Red-Tailed Hawks 48-26 on a gridiron flanked by the beauty of Mill Valley’s marshlands and surrounding hills.

That serene background was a stark contrast to the explosive and frantic display on the field put on by the visiting Crusaders, a continuation of the firepower they showed off two weeks ago against Granada.

Much like that win over the Matadors, Riordan (2-0) was still far from perfect on the road in Marin County. The Crusaders were flagged 16 times, including a block in the back some 40 yards behind Zachary Jones, spoiling what would have been a kick return touchdown for the senior speedster.

“We won in the end, that’s the most important thing, but I’d probably give us a C+,” head coach Adhir Ravipati said. “It’s a process learning how to win and have success. It’s a process learning how to work. All that stuff is new for us here at Riordan.”

Riordan head coach Adhir Ravipati speaks to his team following a 48-26 win over Tamalpais in Mill Valley, Calif. on Sept. 10, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

Jones did score before the day was done, taking a short pass from freshman quarterback Michael Mitchell Jr. for an eight-yard touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter, the seventh and final Crusader TD of the day.

Riordan wide receiver Zachary Jones (3) dives for the pylon during the fourth quarter of the Crusaders' 48-26 win over Tamalpais in Mill Valley, Calif. on Sept. 10, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

Mitchell threw for three scores, just as he did in his debut. He connected with Tyrone Jackson on a 17-yard touchdown just before halftime and hooked up with Zion Wells on a 58-yard score less than a minute after Wells recorded an interception, one of three for the Riordan defense on the day. Javius Redding picked a pass off midway through the second quarter and Jackson grabbed one on fourth-and-goal with 7:43 left in the third when Riordan was protecting a 22-7 lead.

Tamalpais (0-2) drove into Crusader territory to open the second half, but failed to score as Redding broke up a pass on fourth down. Just two plays later, Conall Noonan forced a fumble that Ryan Judge recovered to give the Hawks possession in the red zone, and they reached the Riordan 2 before a Miguel Linares-Castro sack on third down. Jackson then intercepted the fourth-down pass in the end zone.

Despite being intercepted three times, Hawks quarterback Braden Young did throw for four scores, keeping the hosts close until late in the third quarter. His 27-yard strike to Andrew Gordon on a fourth-and-10 in the first quarter opened the scoring, though the Crusaders struck back on their next play from scrimmage as King-Njhsanni Wilhite raced through a hole up the middle, then cut left for an 80-yard score.

“My line was holding it down, so I just hit the hole really hard and got into the end zone untouched,” Wilhite said.

The 80-yarder was the longest of Wilhite’s three scores on the day. His 13-yard scamper in the second quarter put Riordan up 15-7, and he broke tackles along the left sideline for a 38-yard score to extend the lead to 29-7 with 5:58 left in the third.

King-Njhsanni Wilhite (1) races along the sideline for a 38-yard touchdown during the third quarter of Riordan's 48-26 win over Tamalpais in Mill Valley, Calif. on Sept. 10, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

“I wasn’t expecting to have three touchdowns, but the coaches trust in me. The whole team trusts in me to put the ball in my hands,” he said after finishing the day with 170 rushing yards on just 11 carries.

Riordan was without some of its impact players including star defensive lineman Isiah Chala, Davion Smith and Xavier Hisatake—all were banged up and inactive—but its defensive line still made some big plays. Santino Martinez recorded a safety in the first quarter to put his team up 8-7, and the Crusaders sacked Young five times.

“I thought our whole defense played well and stepped up overall,” Ravipati said. “We have some things we have to clean up, but overall that’s a tough offense to go against.”

The early Gordon touchdown was the only Tam score until midway through the third, when Gordon struck again with a 30-yard catch-and-run on a screen. Young completed 27 of 43 passes for 365 yards, hitting Will Basnight for a 14-yard score on fourth-and-3 late in the third to cut the lead to 42-20. Mitchell fired back immediately, finding Jackson for a 40-yard gain on the last play of the third quarter to set up Jones’ touchdown.

Tamalpais did record the final score of the day as Gordon hauled in his third touchdown off a five-yard pass.

While the rest of the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) has a bye next week, Riordan was off during Week 2. The Crusaders travel to Atherton next Saturday for a 2 p.m. tilt with Sacred Heart Prep, a program that Ravipati has plenty of familiarity with. He faced them four times when he was coaching at Menlo-Atherton, beating the Gators each time.

“Sacred Heart Prep is a very good football team, so we need to raise our level of play,” he said.