By Doug Gorman
Local football fans might want to mark Oct. 24 on their calendars.
That's when the Lovejoy Wildcats and the Newnan Cougars meet at Twelve Oaks Stadium in a high school football contest that could decide the Region 4-AAAAA title.
If things stay status quo, both teams could also come into the game undefeated.
Lovejoy (6-0) kept its record perfect Thursday night with a win at Carver Columbus, and Newnan (7-0) followed suit Friday night at Tara Stadium with a dramatic 27-20 victory against Riverdale.
It was Riverdale's (4-2) second straight loss in region competition. The Raiders dropped to 1-2 in the region.
"Our seniors have to step up for us," said a disappointed Riverdale coach Rodney Hackney, who kept his team huddled together for more than 10 minutes after the game.
With the game tied 20-20, Newnan put the game away when Sherod Arnold capped an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with his 5-yard run with 41 seconds remaining in the game.
One drive earlier, Riverdale tied the contest when Anthony Edwards rambled into the end zone from 12-yards away. The missed extra point kept the game tied at 20.
Newnan rolled up 312 yards of total offense and Riverdale generated 229 yards in a game that turned into a shootout.
Newnan quarterback Tyler Horne was 17 of 22 for 203 yards passing, but Riverdale intercepted the highly-touted Newnan quarterback twice.
One of the interceptions came when Marcus Harper picked off the pass and headed to the end zone for what could have been the go-ahead touchdown with 1:26 remaining in the third quarter.
But a clipping call erased the touchdown and kept the score at 20-14.
Riverdale kept the football, but the drive ended when Rashad Nettles was also intercepted.
Jerome Touchstone had the other interception for the Raiders, and the turnover helped set up Riverdale's final score.
The opening kickoff turned strange when Riverdale recovered the football on an on-side kick at the Newnan 48.
The Raiders' ball-control offense then went to work. Riverdale kept the football for more than nine minutes, even moving the ball down to the Newnan 13, before a collection of penalties had the Raiders looking at a second down and 40.
The drive eventually stalled when the ball was turned over on downs.
On its first possession of the game Newnan took a 6-0 lead when Horne hit Jonathan Walker on a 4-yard pass with 29 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Raiders then grabbed the lead at 7-6 on their next possession when Mario Swann completed a 51-yard series in 8 plays by running the ball into the end zone from the Cougars' three.
Riverdale's biggest play of the drive came when Nettles hooked up with Kevin McCullough on an 11- yard pass as the Raiders faced a fourth down and eight.
Newnan, however, took control of the game at the break scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:22 of the second quarter to give the Cougars a 20-7 lead at the break.
Riverdale stormed out of the locker room at the half, marching 75 yards in 8 plays. Nettles hit a wide open tight end Vandral Shackleford on a 36-yard pass with 8:36 remaining.