Behind 116 yards and 3 touchdowns from running back Dallas Rivers — all in the first half — Stephenson had no trouble dispatching of rival Southwest DeKalb, 35-7.
It was basically over after the first quarter, in which the Class AAAAAA No. 2 Jaguars scored 21 points while holding the Panthers to 1 total yard. Two of the three first-quarter touchdowns came via the legs of Rivers, who finished the quarter with 81 yards on 11 carries.
SW DeKalb didn’t move the ball at all on offense until the second quarter, when a roughing the passer penalty on Stephenson (5-0) started the Panthers at their own 38-yard line, their best field position of the night to that point.
Two plays later, SW DeKalb (1-4) made its first trip into Stephenson territory, advancing to the 48 on a 4-yard Samuel White catch.
But, quickly, a false start penalty would push the Panthers back across the 50, a negative play pushed them further back, and they had no more luck the rest of the half.
Meanwhile, Stephenson was feasting on the Panthers.
Stephenson finished the half with 198 total yards, with 155 of those coming on the ground. Vanderbilt commit Rivers was the star of the night, but quarterback Giovanni Weekly also ran and threw for a score in the first 24 minutes.
Rivers, who transferred from Tucker High after last season, has brought a new dimension to the Jaguars offense, that’s helped them feel they can challenge the Tigers in Region 6.
“He’s running the ball the way we would like to see, downhill,” Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell said. “We try to be balanced. We were one-sided for a long time; we want to mix and match with the run. We want to keep the chains moving, and that’s what happened.”
In the second half, the starters came out on offense for Stephenson, but very little went better for SW DeKalb for awhile. Offensively, in fact, it went backward for most of the third.
After putting up 40 total yards and showing some flashes of a passing game in the first half, the Panthers couldn’t make any headway against a determined Stephenson defense in the third quarter in which they were held to minus-19 yards until a late 36-yard pass got them back into positive territory.
The Panthers didn’t score until the final 2 minutes of the game, after quarterback Malcolm Anderson found a hot hand in 6-foot-5 tight end Gabriel Richardson, who had 4 catches for 72 yards in the fourth quarter. His last one set up Jacoby Riley for a short touchdown grab to end Stephenson’s bid to shut out the Panthers for a third consecutive meeting.
SWD 0 0 0 7 – 7
Stephenson 21 14 0 0 – 35
Stephenson – Dallas Rivers 2 run (Wisdom Nzidee kick)
Stephenson – Giovanni Weekly 7 run (Nzidee kick)
Stephenson – Rivers 12 run (Nzidee kick)
Stephenson – Rivers 1 run (Nzidee kick)
Stephenson – Ari Werts 14 pass from Weekly (Nzidee kick)
SWD – Jacoby Riley 4 pass from Malcolm Anderson (Marvin Ellis kick)