Poly cornerback Donovan Riley felt so ill earlier this week that he missed three days of football practice.
Fortunately, the effects of what he called "a 24-hour bug-type thing" — which lasted a lot longer that — didn't linger into Saturday night's game against Baltimore City rival Edmondson.
Riley looked just fine as he intercepted three passes and scored two touchdowns to lead the No. 10 Engineers to a 12-0 victory over the Red Storm in a clash between the last remaining unbeaten teams in the city's Division I.
In a game in which yardage was tough to come by, Riley wasn't the only Engineer to stand out on defense. Teammates Jonathan Melton and Nigel Benjamin also had interceptions. Melton had 15 tackles, and Priestly Shuler had 10 tackles and a sack.
The defensive line also drew kudos for its stellar play as coach Roger Wrenn's Engineers (4-0, 3-0 division) notched their third shutout in four games, having allowed only six points all season.
"Prime time players make prime time plays, and we made prime time plays tonight," Riley said. "My team is stingy with the ball. Wherever the ball is, my defensive teammates are around. Wherever the ball is, we come to get it."
The All-Metro second-team senior headed for Virginia Tech had never picked off more than one pass in a game and had never run one back for a touchdown.
His first interception set up the first touchdown midway through the third quarter. After the pick, the Engineers, whose drives had stalled in the first half despite good field position, ran seven plays before quarterback Darrell Milburn hit Riley with a 29-yard pass for a 6-0 lead with 4:06 left in the quarter.
The Red Storm marched to the Engineers' 18-yard line on their next series, but Riley picked off Tyjuan Eaton's pass in the end zone and ran it back 48 yards. Poly's ensuing drive stalled, but Riley picked off his third pass of the game on Edmondson's next drive and ran 15 yards for a touchdown.
On their final drive, the Red Storm moved the ball better than it had all night, as Steve Everette and Lawrence Jackson advanced it to the 16-yard line. This time, Benjamin intercepted the ball — Edmondson's fifth interception of the night — to secure the shutout.
The Red Storm, who had allowed only 16 points in its first three games, nearly matched the Engineers' efforts on defense, but the team could not overcome the five turnovers.
"I loved how disciplined they were," Edmondson coach Dante Jones said of his defensive players. "Everything that coach Wrenn threw at them, they were in position to make the plays. The defense played excellent. We knew that if we could get in the end zone one time it would make all the difference in the world. It just didn't happen for us tonight."
In the first half, the Red Storm (3-1, 2-1) never made it into Poly territory. The average starting field position on Edmondson's five first-half drives was the 16, and two drives stalled on the Red Storm's 1- and 9-yard lines.
Poly's offense also struggled in the first half, despite two drives that started inside the Red Storm's 35.
Poly made it to Edmondson's 15-yard line with 28.6 seconds left in the first half after Milburn hit Riley with a 20-yard pass on fourth-and-13, but Edmondson's Eric Tate sacked Milburn two plays later and time ran out.
After the Engineers went three-and-out on their first series of the second half, the Red Storm had its best field position of the game when Shuler couldn't get a punt off under pressure and had to run it, turning the ball over on downs on Poly's 26-yard line.
Runs by Everette and Eaton gave Edmondson first-and-goal from the 9-yard line, but Riley picked off Eaton's next pass and raced 52 yards to set up the first touchdown.
"I thought both defenses made outstanding plays throughout the game," Wrenn said. "We kept thinking, 'If we could just punch one in,' and we thought we saw the cornerback bite when we ran short, so we ran our hitch-and-go and [Riley] caught a long touchdown pass."
Riley finished with 83 all-purpose yards, including 65 on four receptions, while running back Jamal Chappell rushed for 50 yards on nine carries. Everette carried the ball 18 times for 70 yards for Edmondson.
P 0 0 6 6 -- 12
E 0 0 0 0 -- 00
P—Riley 29 pass from Milburn, run failed
P—Riley 15 int. return, run failedCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun