Seneca coach Dave Backes stood in the middle of Riverside's football field following Saturday's victory tapping the shoulder of the player he considered largely responsible for his team's 6-0 start.
Freshman quarterback Darmel Whitfield rushed for a touchdown and threw for another as the undefeated Indians broke open a close game in the second quarter en route to a 42-16 victory over the Frontiers in the Harvard Cup.
"We wouldn't be standing here now with this victory if it wasn't for this young man," said Backes. "To me, it's phenomenal. The coach isn't getting any smarter, it's the players."
Whitfield scored on a 1-yard run and later connected with Perry Davis on a 25-yard touchdown pass. At cornerback, Whitfield had his fifth interception of the season. Michael Towns and Davis were also credited with pickoffs, with Davis returning his 90 yards.
Seneca tailback Brandon Hawkins scored three touchdowns, giving him 10 for the season. He used his speed to the outside to score on runs of 32, 27 and 5 yards, finishing with 143 yards on 11 carries.
"This year we've got more team unity," said Hawkins. "We really want to come in here and win the Harvard Cup. It's a team thing."
Seneca was picked to finish fourth in the Harvard Cup following last year's 1-8 season. But the Indians have emerged as the team to beat. Their biggest test awaits next weekend when they face defending champion South Park (5-1) at All High Stadium.
Riverside led, 16-8, in the first quarter, but soon proved no match for Seneca, ranked No. 20 in the state in Class A.
The Frontiers owned the momentum early scoring on a 3-yard run by senior running back John Manney and a 65-yard pass to wide receiver James Anderson from Gary Augustiniak. The touchdown catch was Anderson's sixth. Manney finished with 142 yards on 24 carries and Anderson had five receptions for 105 yards.
But Seneca broke the game open with four touchdowns in the second quarter. "The second quarter was very simple," said Riverside coach Steve Toth. "We had a couple bad calls go against us and it went downhill from there. It's all a mental problem for them."
The loss leaves Riverside (3-3) scrambling for the fourth and final playoff spot. Dante Rivera led Riverside with 11 tackles.
Durand McCloud had a 30-yard scoring run for Seneca, and Nate Beeks and Tarron Swain combined on a safety late in the game.