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RIVERVIEW • Arther Green didn't catch a pass Saturday afternoon.

At least not from his quarterback.

A senior standout receiver and defensive back for the Parkway Central football team, Green snagged his third interception of the season and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter. The pick-6 gave the Colts 14 points in a 33-second span before halftime and they carried that momentum into the second half and rolled to a 50-18 victory over Riverview Gardens in the Class 4 District 3 championship game Saturday at Riverview.

The No. 7 large school in the rankings, Central (11-1) advanced to play at Rolla (7-5) in a quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Friday.

Riverview finished 8-4, which is the most wins for the program since it won 13 games and the Class 5A state championship in 1998.

The Rams were hamstrung by the loss of senior quarterback Lawrence Johnson. The dual-threat signal caller can make magic with his arm and his feet. But he suffered an apparent knee injury with 6 minutes and 36 seconds to play in the second quarter. Johnson hobbled off and did not return until the third quarter. When he took the field it was obvious he was not the same explosive weapon.

“It was huge. It showed us more than we knew,” Riverview coach Rolando Merriweather said. “We'd never played without Lawrence. When he went down even the defense started slacking.”

Riverview led 12-8 after backup quarterback and starting receiver Ryan Pitts stepped under center. He fumbled his first snap, dropped his third but found junior receiver Michael Neal across the middle for a 9-yard gain on fourth-and-6 at the Central 20. Three plays later he scored a 1-yard touchdown to make it 12-8 with 3 minutes and 28 seconds to play in the second quarter.

The game changed in those few minutes.

Central went 66 yards on three plays and got a 24-yard touchdown when senior quarterback Pat Dill hit receiver DeAndre Campbell. The Colts went back in front 15-12 with 2:19 left in the half.

Central's defense ravaged Riverview's offense and forced a punt. Three plays into the ensuing drive senior running back Jayden Mitchell went 14 yards for a touchdown that made it 22-12 with 1:15 in the half.

Four plays into Riverview's next drive Green made the interception and immediately though of one thing.

“The end zone,” Green said. “I was looking for somebody to block and the end zone.”

Central led 29-12 at half.

Riverview faced a similar situation the week before as it rallied from a significant halftime deficit to knock off Fort Zumwalt East. But the Rams were near full strength then. The players were concerned about whether or not Johnson could continue.

“They're just kids. That's what happens,” Merriweather said. “Lawrence is our top player so when our top player goes out it affects us.”

Central's plan was to come out of halftime, receive the kickoff and string together a long, successful drive.

Mitchell ruined that plan when he went 39 yards on the second play of the drive for a touchdown to give the Colts a 36-12 lead 25 seconds into the third quarter.

“That was a big momentum boost for us,” Green said. “We kept saying they're not going to give up so we came out harder in the second half.”

Mitchell rushed for 110 yards on 11 carries and scored twice. Senior running back Noah Wittner rushed for 88 yards on 13 carries and scored a 5-yard touchdown.

“I couldn't do it without my blockers,” Mitchell said. “My lineman and my wide receivers did a good job. I couldn't score without them.”

Dill completed 8 of 9 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Campbell caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.

Johnson completed 5 of 7 passes for 100 yards. He found Miles for a 46-yard touchdown that made it 8-6 with 4.5 seconds to play in the first quarter. Miles caught four passes for 137 yards.

Pitts completed 5 of 10 passes for 93 yards and was intercepted twice. He rushed for a pair of 1-yard scores.

Two seasons ago Riverview broke a 26-game losing streak with a shocking win over Clayton in the first round of districts. Saturday it hosted the district championship game. That's a staggering turnaround for a program that has its share of challenges. The loss was a hard one for the Rams to take, but one Merriweather hopes can help the team continue to push forward.

“Will we repeat the things that gave us success or will we fizzle out?” Merriweather said. “I don't know how they'll take it. Some of them will be happy, some will be upset. It's going to be a tough year.”

Central lost the district title game to rival Parkway North last season which it knocked off in a semifinal this year. Saturday's victory was one goal of several that the Colts set for themselves this season and they plan on chasing the others down.

“It's everything, it's everything,” Green said. “It means a lot but we're going to keep going.”

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