CALEDONIA — Highland head coach Ty Stover saw improvement in his football squad despite a 35-21 road loss to River Valley Friday night.
Both teams scored early, but a late first-half fumble by the Fighting Scots at the RV 4-yard-line proved to be a costly one.
“That was a big momentum swing, especially with them getting the ball after halftime,” Stover said. “That wasn’t the only thing that happened tonight to shut our momentum down.”
That was Highland’s lone fumble of the night.
Brayden Boyd made the visitors pay by rambling 76 yards to set up a Karson Lang 1-yard score that put River Valley ahead just before halftime 20-14.
“We gave them opportunities tonight and unfortunately that left the door open for them. They’re a good ball club and they are going to take advantage of those opportunities.
“We did get better from week 2 to week 3. That’s a lot of what we tell our kids. That’s all we can ask; just keep getting better and we’re going to be a heck of a football team.”
The Scots (1-2) started quickly thanks to sophomore Dane Nauman’s powerful running. His 26-yard run, carrying defenders into the end zone, put Highland ahead 7-0 late in the first quarter.
Nauman finished with 167 yards on 21 carries.
“Dane’s a heck of a back. Coach (Todd) Dawson and these linemen up front just continue to get better. Their feet get better. Their physicality gets better.
“And when that happens, you got a sophomore back who is a pretty good load when he gets downhill. You complement that with Cody Matthews, with a little bit of power and agility there too, it just seems to mesh real well.”
Matthews added 49 yards on 13 trips and a touchdown.
Highland quarterback Zach Schmidt hit on 9-of-11 pass attempts for 146 yards. Jay Melchiori caught 3 passes for 61 yards and a 37-yard touchdown that put the Scots ahead 14-7. Mason Duncan added 3 catches for 49 yards.
River Valley (3-0) answered with a 6-play drive to tie the score at 7.
The Vikings relied on a wide-open aerial attack to gain control.
“We tried to keep everything in front; and manage his (QB Cayden Shidone) scrambles and I thought we did that,” Stover said. “They made some plays tonight where we were right there. They just made the play over top of us or beside us.”
Shidone connected on 23-of-39 passes for 339 yards and three TDs.
The hosts opened the second half with a 77-yard, 8-play drive capped by Will Garrisons’ 2-yard run for a 28-14 advantage. A 10-yard scoring strike to make it 35-14.
RV head coach Doug Green is pleased with a 3-0 start.
“We needed to make hay in the non-league and the kids have taken to that. We had a stark improvement from last week. We wanted to play 4 quarters,” he said.
The Scots host Mount Gilead Friday night.
“We are going into the MOAC. We wanted to try to get a statement win and get some momentum going into the KMAC (schedule). We are disappointed because we battled tonight, but we left opportunities out there,” Stover said.
“The goal is to get better week to week. We started practicing in June through the meat of the summer. We’ve gotten better every week. It needs to happen again.”
Chandler Stevens had 11 tackles, including 9 solo, for Highland. Matthews and Gavin Hankins added 5 tackles each.