GREENVILLE — Peyton Skillman’s 31-yard field goal with 6:26 left in the third quarter broke open a close contest and gave the Gladiators the momentum they needed to turn back a feisty Glenvar team, 38-21, in nondistrict football action Friday night.

“They are the best 0-2 football team in the state,” Riverheads coach Robert Casto said of the Highlanders. “Our kids played real well and we survived,” he added.

The evening started off with a bang for the Gladiators, now 2-0 on the season. Riverheads took just three plays in the opening minutes to go up 7-0 when running back Zach Smiley took the handoff, shook off all defenders and scampered 47 yards down the middle of the field for the score at the 10:31 mark. Skillman was good on the extra point to put the Gladiators up 7-0.

But the visiting Highlanders were able to go head-to-head with the Gladiators after that with each team answering the other’s big plays with some of their own. After an exchange of possessions, Glenvar took just three plays to move from their own 35 yard line to the end zone when quarterback Aiden Wolk launched a pass to James Street who scampered up the sidelines for a 44-yard TD. Kaid Fuhrman was good on the kick to lock the game at 7-7 with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.

Riverheads hit pay dirt twice in the second quarter, when Smiley and Cy Cox teamed up to run the ball down to the 9 yard line on a pair of plays. That set the stage for fullback Trevor Roberts to bull the ball up the middle and cross the goal line while dragging several Highlanders with him. Skillman hit the extra point to put the Gladiators up 14-7 with a minute left in the second quarter.

With only a minute left in the half, however, each team would score once more. Glenvar took the Riverheads kickoff at the 33 and then on the next play Wolk heaved the ball to Nicholas Seabolt for a 67-yard play and Fuhrman made good on the extra point.

Not to be outdone, Riverheads’ Braeson Fulton took the Glenvar kickoff and ran it back 95 yards for the TD. Skillman’s kick sent the Gladiators into the locker room with a 21-14 lead.

Glenvar quickly knotted the game after half when Wolk connected with Seabolt on the third play of the period for a 63-yard strike. The kick was good and the score stood at 21-all.

That set the stage for Skillman’s field goal at the 6:26 mark to turn the tide. The Gladiators defense then buckled down to defend the lead after a fake punt by Glenvar saw them move into Gladiator territory. The Gladiators took over on their own 41 with 2:40 left in the period. Smiley and Roberts pushed the ball back down to the 25 and then Roberts took it up the middle for a 25-yard score. The kick was good to make it 31-21.

The Gladiator defense then shut down the visitors and Smiley took the ball across the goal line once more on a 6 yard scamper with 5:30 left in the game to put the final at 38-21.

“We had some fourth down stops that really changed the momentum of the game,” Casto said of his defense. “We are better this week than last week, so I am pleased.”

For the evening the Gladiators had 68 carries for 358 yards. Smiley carried the ball 27 times for 178 yards, Roberts had 119 yards in 20 carries, and Fulton had 11 carries for 48 yards.

The Gladiators hit the road next week to meet rival East Rockingham, the only team to hand the Gladiators a defeat last year in their state championship march.

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