Whatever could go wrong Friday night for the Person Rockets did.
After hanging tough with the Pirates for most of the second half, a disastrous final 30 seconds left little doubt about the outcome as Riverside ran to a 62-19 win over the Rockets in Rocket Stadium.
The Rockets competed on a more level playing field in the second half, but Riverside did its damage in the first half.
Up 7-0 with less than 4 minutes to play in the first quarter, the Pirate defense forced a three-and-out for the Rocket offense. Riverside took the ball and marched 65 yards in just five plays with 1:28 to go in the first period, to start putting distance between themselves and Person.
The Rocket defense got the team back in the ball game early in the second quarter, when defensive pressure on the Pirate quarterback forced what appeared to be a safety. But the referees realized Riverside had coughed up the ball. Defensive lineman Mercel Smith covered the loose ball and the Rockets were on the board with 9:37 to play in the half.
Riverside started exploiting the Person secondary after that, connecting on a 53-yard pass play that extended the lead to 21-6. Another touchdown at the four-minute mark built the lead to 28-6.
Then lightning struck.
Following a pass interference call on Person, Riverside scored on an 18-yard pass with just 29.2 seconds to play. On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Riverside intercepted a Ridge Clayton pass and returned it 42 yards for another score with 13.4 seconds left in the half to take a 41-6 lead into the locker room.
After the break, Person’s offense loosened up. The Rockets scored on a 13-yard pass from Clayton to Dequandre Newman to cut the lead to 41-12. Newman’s run for a two-point conversion was stopped short.
Later in the third quarter, Clayton hit Newman again, this time for a 61-yard bomb that cut the Riverside lead to 48-19 after Orlando Gonzales-Bello’s extra point.
For the game, Person did most of its offensive damage through the air, throwing for 200 yards on the night. Clayton was 17-32 for 208 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Aaron Ward’s lone pass was a completion, but it went for an eight-yard loss. On the ground, Riverside bottled up the Rockets, limiting them to minus 36 yards rushing. Newman led the receiving corps with seven catches for 130 yards and two TDs. Aquowne Terrell snagged five catches for 60 yards.
The loss drops the Rockets to 0-3 on the season, but Person has a chance to right the ship Friday night, when they travel across the state line to face rival Halifax County (Va.). Game time is 7 p.m.