The Shasta team hoists the River Bowl trophy in 2016, one of our Top 10 River Bowl memories (Photo by Shasta County Sports)
I’ve experienced the River Bowl as a journalist, coach and parent. I’ve been inside the rivalry for more than 15 years, talking to coaches and players about the game, covering the game and cheering once my sons started playing in it. Including my girlfriend’s sons, I’ve had four kids go through Shasta, all winning the coveted River Bowl trophy.
But many of my favorite River Bowl moments aren’t from Shasta wins, but from great games that embody the spirit of competition that only a rivalry game can spur.
I’ve witnessed blowouts, tight games, high-scoring affairs and defensive slugfests. As time passes, I remember less of what the score was and more of the players and characters that performed on Redding’s grandest football stage. Guys like Izzy Matthews, Taylor Jackson, Anthony Williams and Stephen Somers.
Aaron’s Top 5 River Bowl moments
River Bowl XIX – 2011 – Shasta 48, Enterprise 42 (OT)
Like Stefon from Saturday Night Live – “This game had it all” – offense, defense, overtime.
The Wolves jumped out to a 28-point first-half lead as quarterback Chris Collins tossed two scores and ran for another. The underdog Wolves (they came in 4-3) led 35-14 at half, but the 6-1 Hornets wouldn’t go away. Enterprise QB Alex Henderson threw four TD passes – three to Travis Hall and one to Taylor Angley – on four straight possessions.
After Collins scored in overtime and the Wolves missed the PAT, all Henderson and the Hornets had to do was score and convert bring the River Bowl trophy back to the east side. But Kirk Ramage’s defense stiffened at the right time, keeping Henderson one yard from pay dirt.
“It was like winning the section championship but without the ring,” Collins told TJ Holmes after the game.
That’s how big that game was.
River Bowl XVI – 2008 – Enterprise 38 Shasta 35
Did he get in? Was he down? A decade later that question is still bandied about concerning the Enterprise win at Shasta’s Thompson Field. He was Chace Taylor. And the questions are about a 1-yard plunge into the east end zone that gave the Hornets the lead in the final seconds of the game.
Anthony Williams talked about how he’d played horribly that game, but somehow the Hornets were in a position to win the game at the end.
The Hornets called timeout and, as Williams told me, they had two plays called for the final moments. The first was a run by Taylor and the plan, if he didn’t make it, was for Williams to fake the dive to Taylor and boot for the winning score.
“I kept thinking I hope he gets in because I had played horribly and I didn’t want to have to get the ball,” Williams said.
Shasta defensive coordinator always chided me that Taylor didn’t get in, but I remember sitting on the goal line watching that final play and seeing the ball cross the line and the refs hands go up.
River Bowl XXIV – 2016 – Shasta 49, Enterprise 33
This is one of my favorite River Bowl moments because I got to experience it as a father, watching my son and my girlfriend’s son earn their right to hoist the River Bowl trophy.
Tanner was the starting right tackle his senior season and Robby Carlson was one of the Wolves’ wideout. They were part of a group of kids, either through baseball or other sports, that I’d either coached or watched play since Little League and Pop Warner days. On the flip side, the Hornets also had players that I’d coached against or watched my kids play against, so it was personal, but in a fun way.
I still remember seeing Tanner with the springing block on Casey Norrington downfield on a Kyale Muckel sweep. I picture clear as day Tanner coming back to the sideline high-fiving his teammates for the block he described in words I can’t use here.
But the image that burns in my brain is my 6-foot-6 kid jumping up and down with his pack of Wolves as they raised the trophy.
My youngest, Nolan, is a senior and will play in this year’s game. My hope is for him to experience the joy Tanner, Robby and Robby’s older brother, Jeff, had in helping the Wolves to their three-year run.
River Bowl XII – 2004 – Shasta 42, Enterprise 6
One of my first experiences with the River Bowl, I had taken over as the Sports Editor of the newspaper the previous year and had finally gotten up to speed and my feet under me for the 2004 game. My prep writer, John Ryan, was an Enterprise alumni (something I never held against him) and I knew that one day my kids would got to Shasta, so I was enjoying the rivalry.
But, as a sports fan and writer, you’re always looking for the good story and heading into River Bowl XII, the story was “Can Shasta finally win?” It’s not much of a rivalry if one team is always winning.
Ramage talked about coming on to coach for Shasta in 1996 for the third RIver Bowl and never having won one.
“You begin to feel like it’s never going to happen,” he said.
Well, it happened as Taylor Jackson scored four times and ran for 201 yards. I remember standing on the sidelines as the kids spilled out of the stands and mobbed the players in utter joy.
Chris Grzebyk told John Ryan in an interview before the game something like “You have to work hard to keep the streak going. You don’t want to be that guy on that team (that loses the RIver Bowl).”
Even though the Hornets would get revenge a few weeks later as the No. 6 seed beating third-seeded Shasta 42-21, the moment of finally snapping the streak was their moment.
RIver Bowl XVII – 2009 – Enterprise 33, Shasta 20
There’s always that talk about throwing records out the window when rivals meet. This year is a good example of that as a 2-5 Shasta team meets a 1-6 Enterprise squad. No matter their fortunes this season, a River Bowl win is something either team will hang its hat on.
In 2009, both squads came into the River Bowl 7-0 and looked the part. The Wolves were led by the bruising running of Evan Taylor and junior quarterback Clay Cavendar, while the Hornets countered with Bryan Coleman and the Williams twins.
Taylor ran for 157 yards on 21 carries and two scores, while Coleman matched that with 137 yards rushing on 27 carries and three scores.
Shasta cut it to 27-20 in the final minute of the third quarter, but a costly fumble recovered by Enterprise High’s Troy Woods cost the Wolves. Anthony Williams sealed it with a short touchdown run as part of his 302 total yards of offense.
River Bowl is every part of me as a Bears-Packers or Giants-Dodgers game. Except for me, there’s never been a rooting interest. I’ve experienced the crosstown rivalry game since 2010 as a journalist and football fan. But never anything more.
I’ve had friends with kids in the game, covered multiple siblings that have come through the ranks. Same thing every year – I root for a close game and no injuries for two reasons: 1) because everyone wants to read about a good game, and 2) I want to be entertained just as much as the other 5,000-7,000 people in the stands.
TJ’s Top 5 River Bowl moments
River Bowl XIX – 2011 – Shasta 48, Enterprise 42 (OT)
This game will forever be known to me as “The Goal Line Stand.” This was my second River Bowl and it was going much like the first, a Shasta rout. Enterprise rallied from being down 35-14 to tie it at 42 to go to overtime thanks to four touchdown passes from Alex Henderson or “Tebow” as he was known after Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.
Shasta’s Chris Collins scored in overtime and the Wolves missed the PAT in her first football game ever. Enterprise had 10 yards and the extra point to win. On fourth and goal from the 2-yard line, Henderson went left on an option keeper and turned upfield, bouncing off would-be tacklers until being denied on his final surge by gang of white jerseys to send the Wolves into a frenzy. I could still write a book on this game. Who knows, maybe I will.
Aside of the game, I can still remember the sideline. Usually the administration keeps most people off the sideline. Not this game. Spectators were 3-4 people deep around the south end zone at Enterprise Community Stadium, from both coaches boxes and wrapping all the way around. Students were on each other’s shoulders to see. So when the Wolves won, at least 1,000 people were on the field to celebrate in less than 5 seconds. It was wild. Best game I’ve ever covered in my nine-plus years a journalist.
River Bowl XVIII – 2010 – Shasta 53, Enterprise 20
This River Bowl wasn’t close by any means. But if you look at what came out of that game and compare it to the way things are going today, you’ll see the impact it had. Shasta female kicker Ellie Oliver made her football debut, going a perfect 6-for-6 in PATs and splitting the uprights on a 21-yard field goal in the win.
More importantly, Northern Section historian Kevin Askeland said in 2010 that Oliver was the first female player to ever score in a Northern Section game. It led to several kids wearing makeshift No. 14 Ellie Oliver jerseys. Fast-forward to today and you’ll see a handful of girls on teams across the county and section. Who knows, maybe one of those girls are playing because of Oliver.
River Bowl XX – 2012 – Enterprise 42, Shasta 26
The “Woods” family practically was a household name since the mid-2000s, or so I’ve learned. Brad, the younger of the three brothers of Virgil (still coaching at Enterprise) and Troy, had his redemption game. As a junior in my No. 1 River Bowl moment, Woods fumbled twice on back-to-back fourth quarter drives. The second was near the goal line with 1:18 left with Enterprise trying to punch in the go-ahead score. Woods appeared to have the first down inside the 2 but was stripped, giving Shasta the ball to force overtime.
A year later, Woods owned the Wolves. He carried the ball 23 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns and then-head coach Darren Trueblood fed his workhorse ’back over, and over, and over again to pound the ball, allowing Woods to get the victory he thought he had the year prior.
River Bowl XXI – 2013 – Enterprise 50, Shasta 13
There’s been some blowouts in River Bowl history and this one started the most recent trend of lopsided affairs. Enterprise recovered a fumble on the opening squib kick and scored four plays later. You could feel the air get completely sucked out of the visitor sideline and bleachers. It was a sign of what was coming – a 50-0 halftime lead for Enterprise. It was efficient for the Hornets who scored on eight of their first nine possessions and all eight scoring drives were four plays or less.
Keep in mind this was the same Hornet team that was reached the CIF Division III State Championship Bowl Game – before the state expanded to their current state title game structure. This team was legit. And they proved it that night. Every time talented tight end Alex Talladino touched the ball it resulted in points. He caught four passes for 200 yards and 4 TDs, he also rushed for a score and threw a 2-point conversion.
River Bowl XX & XIX
By the time River Bowl rolls around, I would be to be blurry-eyed, worn out, beat down and tired. Someone finally felt my pain and that person was my then-co-worker Thomas Lawrence, who spent two years with me as a fellow sports reporter in Redding before moving on to The Record in Stockton (he’s since left for new job but still lives in Stockton and covers football as a freelancer).
The lack of sleep from our coverage could have allowed us to pass as skeletons for Halloween. We basically didn’t need to dress up for the holiday. All (semi)-kidding aside, we still reminisce about the two River Bowls we covered together. In 2012, (River Bowl XX), Thomas and I dressed the exact same to cover River Bowl, which was unplanned. We were so tired we didn’t care. For those who followed our coverage back then, fake Twitter accounts were created to poke fun at us and our friendship. That was about the start of it.
Which brings me to the next River Bowl – the following year. We did all of our game of the week videos previews in our Halloween Costume because of a work party. I was then Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman and Thomas (a Red Sox fan) was Dustin Pedroia. We changed out of the costumes for River Bowl – no idea why. Like I said before, burry-eyed and delirious. But it still brings back memories and we laugh about it every year. River Bowl creates memories and those I will have forever.