HS FOOTBALL: Gaughan leads Riverside to wild win over West Scranton

Aug. 26—SCRANTON — Reese Gaughan could no longer stand and just wilted onto his back, drained of every bit of energy.

Riverside's exhausted senior could barely enjoy the postgame celebration that he did everything in his power for his teammates to enjoy late Friday night at Scranton Veterans Memorial Stadium.

One of the top all-around players in the Lackawanna Football Conference, he ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, caught three passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and even threw a touchdown. His effort carried fifth-ranked Riverside to a wild 47-39 win over West Scranton in the season opener of the 2023 high school football season.

It's a performance that won't soon be forgotten.

"I want to thank every single person on this team because we showed so much heart," Gaughan said as teammates and coach Harry Armstrong came to help him to his feet. "I am so proud of this team."

Both teams had explosive plays and rang up video-game-like numbers, while players battled fatigue and cramps, as is often the case in the late August humidity and heat that resonates from the artificial turf.

In addition to Gaugha's gawdy numbers, his batterymate quarterback Chase Taddonio had a productive first half and finished with 48 yards rushing and two touchdowns and 131 yards passing and a touchdown before a tight calf muscle locked him on the sidelines for much of the second half.

"I think we proved tonight that we can run or throw the ball," Taddonio said. "A lot of teams look at us only as a passing team, but I think we proved that we can be gritty and run the ball."

West Scranton countered Riverside's offensive prowess as speedster Taron Knight-Guerrier had 220 yards on three receiving touchdowns and added an 80-yard kickoff return that led to a score. Caiden Berardi contributed two rushing touchdowns, and the Invaders stayed in the game by recovering three fumbles but couldn't rally all the way back as Riverside's Gerry Rose intercepted a pass in the final seconds.

"It is always tough to lose, especially for a program that is trying to right itself," West Scranton coach Jake Manetti said. "They never quit. It was a one-score game the entire second half. We kept responding, but it was a couple of mistakes that came back to haunt us."

Things certainly looked like they were headed heavily in Riverside's favor in the first quarter.

On their second possession, the Vikings showed how quickly they could strike when Gaughan snapped in a short screen pass, powered through a tackle, and raced 74 yards for a touchdown at 6:04.

Alex Pica pushed the lead to 14-0 less than a minute later when he stepped in front of a pass in the flat and sprinted 25 yards for a touchdown.

But as they did throughout the game, West Scranton responded.

Amir Robinson forced a fumble, and Zaeyvion Miller scooped it up to set the Invaders on the 5. Berardi pushed his way through the defensive front to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 1:06 left.

Riverside swung the momentum right back. Gaughan hauled in a 28-yard pass, and Taddonio scored from 2 yards at 10:59 left in the second.

Then Robinson took the ensuing kickoff, spun free from a tackle, and went the distance. However, an inadvertent whistle brought the play back.

It took only one snap for the Invaders to put that behind them as Knight-Guerrier collected a pass from Dan Van Dusky and took it for a 65-yard touchdown to close within 21-13.

The frantic pace of the first half continued as Gaughan hit Rose for a 9-yard touchdown and a 27-13 lead with 4:21 left in the half. Then, Van Dusky launched a tight pass, and Knight-Guerrier caught it after it was tipped for an 84-yard score to make it 27-19. Riverside came right back, and Taddonio scored on a 3-yard run for a 34-19 halftime lead one play after Vincent Scotti jumped on a loose ball to preserve the drive.

"Any momentum that goes the other team's way, we try to take that right back," Taddonio said.

Knight-Guerrier charged up the crowd again with an 80-yard second-half kickoff return that led to a 1-yard touchdown by Berardi. After the West Scranton defense forced a punt, Van Dusky, who finished with 263 yards passing, hit Knight-Guerrier in stride for a 71-yard touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion left the Invaders trailing 34-33 at 9:04 in the third.

That's when Gaughan, who also battled cramps, helped grind out the yards on the ground. Playing quarterback, he had a 17-yard touchdown run in the third for a 41-33 lead.

Hunter Baumgardner broke through the line on a 25-yard touchdown run after Van Dusky recovered a punt that hit a Riverside player's leg to make it 41-39.

Shamier Lyons recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but Richie Kostoff came up with a pair of defensive plays to stifle the drive.

"It was always like the next-play mentality," Kostoff said. "We gave up a lot of big plays. We persevered. We didn't have one of our best players in Robby Garvey, who is injured, then we lost Chase, Reese, and our linebackers. It was a heck of a job by everybody.

"We all left everything on the field."

Riverside took over at the West Scranton 47. Gaughan took seven straight direct snaps and bulled his way behind Ed Snee, a 320-pound tackle, Tavian Branch, a 285-pound tackle, who lined up on the same side, and Kostoff as a power blocker. He finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown.

"I just wanted to do everything I could to get this win," Gaughan said. "I had cramps. I ate mustard on the sideline and got back into the game. I had to do it. I saw the score, and I had to get us this amazing win. It says a lot about our team."

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