By Jeffery Armstrong
The Riverdale Raiders scored 27 straight points in three quarters, breaking open a tight game to romp the North Clayton Eagles 41-21 Friday night in a non-region contest at Tara Stadium.
The bitter rivals staged a great battle in the first quarter. After a three-and-out series by the Eagles, the Raiders (1-0) drove 60 yards in six plays for the game's first touchdown, a 14-yard scamper by sophomore running back Kevin Colbert with 6:36 remaining.
North Clayton (0-1) came right back, as senior quarterback Ozier France engineered a 70-yard, five-play drive, culminating in a 57-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dirk Engram. The extra point tied the game at seven.
The Eagles' joy was short-lived, however, as Colbert took the ensuing kickoff, made several nice moves and ran 75 yards for a touchdown to give Riverdale the lead again, 14-7.
North Clayton then went 80 yards in nine plays for another touchdown as the France-to-Engram connection hooked up again, this time from 52 yards out with 38 seconds remaining in the first. Engram was then penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown and North Clayton missed the tying extra point, keeping the score 14-13 in favor of Riverdale.
Colbert again took the momentum away from the Eagles as he returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the North Clayton 23 with 20 seconds remaining in the first. Only a nice hustle play from North Clayton's Nathaniel "Champ" Rainwater saved another Colbert kickoff touchdown.
North Clayton was held scoreless until the 4:59 mark in the fourth quarter.
North Clayton hurt itself in the first half, committing nine penalties for 74 yards, including 15 yards for Engram's penalty and five false-start penalties.
"I'm very disappointed in our discipline," said a visibly upset North Clayton head coach Don Shockley. "We talk about being disciplined all the time. We're not a bad football team n we just kept making discipline mistakes. We'll correct that for sure; it may mean some guys sitting on the bench."
Riverdale quarterback Rashad Nettles didn't have a great passing day (2-for-9, 31 yards, an interception), but he ran the team well. Nettles made a key 12-yard run on fourth-and-10 to keep a touchdown drive alive in the second quarter and he also ran 50 yards for a touchdown to put the Raiders up 28-13 at the half.
Riverdale's Mario Swann, a freshman, scored from five yards out, senior fullback Anthony Edwards scored from two yards out and junior running back Doug Jennings also scored a rushing TD. France threw a touchdown pass to Kevin Battle and Dominique Randolph made the 2-point conversion for the Eagles' fourth-quarter score, making it 41-21.
"I knew North Clayton would come out strong; after all, this is a heated rivalry. I'm really proud of how my guys fought when they made the score 14-13," said Raiders head coach Rodney Hackney. "With a new team, you don't know how they'll respond to something like that. My guys did well, even though the second half was a little disappointing."