Riverdale 24, Fayette County 7

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

caption arrowCaption
High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Riverdale’s defense hadn’t yielded a score since the fourth quarter of a 14-14 tie with Pebblebrook a month ago.

That ended when Fayette County’s lightning-quick sophomore Javon Graham sprinted 60 yards for the first points of the night early in the first quarter. But all it did was make the Raiders mad.

Riverdale’s stingy defense hunkered down and kept the Tigers out of the endzone the rest of the night, as Riverdale (5-0-1, 3-0 in Region 5-4A) remained unbeaten on the season with a 24-7 win at the Tiger Den in Fayetteville.

“That’s the first time we’ve been scored on in a while,” Riverdale head coach Rodney Hackney said afterward. “They hit us with that quick one, but I think it made us mad, made us get focused, and we played well defensively after that.”

The Raiders have been dominant defensively all season. After holding Class 7A Pebblebrook to just two touchdowns, Riverdale blasted Clayton County rivals North Clayton and Mount Zion-Jonesboro, 44-0 and 56-0, respectively, before Friday’s tussle with the Tigers (5-3, 3-1), who were also undefeated in region play.

“[Fayette County] Coach [Nick] Davis does a great job,” Hackney said. “They come downhill. You know it’s not going to be a 7-on-7 game when you play a Nick Davis team. Our kids responded and our defense won this game tonight.”

Riverdale’s defense is led by a trio of senior linebackers in the Raider’s 3-3-5 set – Joshua Cooper, Yusef Ryan and Ian Hackney, the coach’s son. They wreaked havoc all night holding down the Tigers’ thunder and lightning running duo of senior Brandon Moss and Graham.

The Raiders essentially ended the game late in the third quarter when they took advantage of a crucial Fayette County turnover. The Tigers forced a Riverdale punt, but the Fayette County returner mishandled the catch and the Raiders recovered at the Tigers’ 12-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, senior speedster Marcus Polite took a jet sweep around the left end and beat a host of Fayette County defenders to the near pylon for a touchdown and an 18-7 lead with just under 3 minutes left to play in the period.

Though they were only down two scores, Davis said he was disappointed by his team’s body language after that touchdown.

“We pride ourselves on being tough and physical,” Davis said, shortly after letting his players know, in no uncertain terms, that he was not pleased with their performance. “I didn’t see that tonight. We had some kids out, but that’s no excuse.”

Davis said a few players went out of town for the fall break but did not communicate with the coaches that they would be missing practice.

“They thought they could just come out here and start rolling, and that’s not going to happen with a talented, well-coached team like Riverdale,” Davis said. “I’m disappointed that we let them come into our house and this is how we played. But we’ve still got a lot to play for, so we’re going to get right back to work.”

Meanwhile Hackney said his team will continue to take one game at a time as the Raiders look to defend their region title. Looming on the horizon is a possible winner-take-all game to close out the regular season against Luella on November 5.

“We’ve got Hampton coming up and we know they can score some points,” Hackney said. “We’re going to get back to work and make sure we’re ready for them.”