It turns out, M.L. King has been hiding quite a quarterback on its bench.
In just his second start, Roland Rivers stepped in for the injured Monquavious Johnson and went 16-of-21 for 337 yards and four touchdowns – running for one more – to lead the Lions to a 34-14 win over Sequoyah (7-4) in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
Except for one self-destructing drive that ended up handing the ball back to Sequoyah 8 yards from the end zone and resulted in the Chiefs’ first score, the Rivers-led Lions (11-0) were unstoppable through the first half and into the second.
MLK scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions, with Rivers having a hand in all four, three through the air and one on the ground. The biggest beneficiary of Rivers’ impressive debut was Demarquis Polite-Bray, who had six catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns, from 58 and 71 yards out. Donald Clark added four catches for 85 yards and two scores of 34 and 58 yards.
“Once MJ (Johnson) got down, I knew it was my time to step up,” said the junior signal-caller, who had 11 of his 16 completions go for 12 or more yards. “I’ve been backup this whole year, but I kept my head in it, stayed focused. And, when the time came, I had to make the most of it.”
Making Rivers’ debut more important was whom he was replacing. Johnson, DeKalb County’s second-leading passer with 2,055 yards and 20 touchdowns, injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Tucker. When he couldn’t play, the question became whether the Lions could keep up their high-octane offense.
Rivers left those concerns in the dust.
“We knew what Roland could do, just from practice and the (junior-varsity) game,” MLK interim coach Robert Freeman said. “He just had to get an opportunity to play. Last week against Miller Grove (a 24-21 win) was the first time he’d really seen live varsity action with the live rounds coming at him. … He did some special things tonight.”
Rivers’ performance should give the Lions confidence heading into a second-round matchup at home against Allatoona, 24-21 winners over Heritage on Friday. Freeman said he thinks Johnson has a good chance to play next week, but he won’t rush the senior back into the lineup.
Sequoyah star running back Blake Ingleton finished with 110 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
S 0 7 0 7 – 14
M 14 7 7 6 – 34
M – Donald Clark 34 pass from Roland Rivers (Presley Bray kick)
M – Clark 58 pass from Rivers (Bray kick)
S – Blake Ingleton 1 run (James Harris kick)
M – Roland Rivers 1 run (Bray kick)
M – Demarquis Polite-Bray 59 pass from Rivers (Bray kick)
M – Polite-Bray 71 pass from Rivers (kick missed)
S – Blake Ingleton 11 run (Harris kick)