A healthy appetizer for a season opener

By Doug Gorman

Football fans in the Southern Crescent won't have to wait long for a marquee game.

They get one the first week as the Riverdale Raiders and the North Clayton Eagles tangle at Tara Stadium tonight in the season opener for both teams.

Although the two schools aren't in the same region, or for that matter the same classification, the North Clayton and Riverdale series is one of Clayton County's most heated rivalries.

Although Riverdale holds a 13-6 edge in the series, it's game both teams can easily get up to play.

"There really aren't many secrets between these two teams," said Riverdale head coach Rodney Hackney. "They know all about us, and we know all about them."

Riverdale turned in a successful season a year ago on the field, but forfeited seven of its game for using an ineligible player, so even though the Raiders made the playoffs, officially their record dropped to 1-10.

Hackney is now just excited to get the 2003 season started and put last year's disappointment behind him.

"I guess I might have mellowed a little bit since I first started coaching, but I still get excited about the new season. It doesn't take much to get up for this game."

Riverdale comes into the contest trying to reload after getting hit hard by graduation.

According to Hackney there are no superstars on his team.

There are some talented athletes, which include running back Anthony Edwards and offensive lineman Keena Hudson, both considered college prospects by Hackney.

North Clayton only won four times on the field last year, but added a victory by forfeit against Riverdale.

The Eagles return to action this year with a young and hurting roster.

Several key players have been injured during the fall practice, including Ozier France, who is slated to play quarterback.

Like Riverdale, the Eagles are also battling youth.

"Our future looks really good if they (our young guys) stick with it," said North Clayton coach Don Shockley.

North Clayton is looking for its first winning season since 1999.

The Eagles finished 7-3 that season, but still missed out on the playoffs.

North Clayton's most recent on-the-field victory against Riverdale also in 1999 as D.J. Shockley led the team to a 22-12 victory.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Tara Stadium.