By Doug Gorman
There won't be an undefeated regular season this time around for the North Clayton Eagles.
Riverdale took care of that Friday night, beating its biggest rival 14-6 in the season opener for both teams in a game played on a wet and sloppy Tara Stadium field.
This year's contest didn't come to living up to an offensive shootout in 2004 won by North Clayton, but Riverdale head coach Nick Davis was thrilled with the outcome.
"Anytime you can beat your biggest rivals that's only going to make my job easier," said Davis. "We have to turn right around and play next Thursday, so our practice schedule is already changed. (But) it makes it easier after the victory.
North Clayton scored first, but Riverdale's defense held from there on. A 12-yard touchdown run from Rodrick Mason midway through the final period gave the Raiders a chance to pull away in a close game.
Riverdale led 8-6 at the end of the first half, and took the game over on defense by forcing four-straight North Clayton fumbles in the second half to end any chance the Eagles had at getting back in the game.
"We talked in the spring and this summer about the importance of playing hard on defense, and we stepped it up tonight," said Davis.
Two North Clayton turnovers came after the Eagles had marched the ball inside the Raiders' 20.
North Clayton took a 6-0 lead with 11:52 remaining in the second quarter as junior quarterback Morgan Burnett scored on an 11-yard draw before the ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed.
Riverdale took the lead for good, however, on its next series with a little help from the Eagles. After North Clayton appeared to stop the Raiders on fourth down, a roughing-the-kicker call allowed Riverdale to maintain possession -and eventually take advantage of its good fortune.
The Raiders converted the 70-yard drive into a score when Calvary Atkins rambled 27 yards for a score The 2-point conversion gave the Raiders an 8-6 lead.
Riverdale returns to action Thursday against Morrow, a team which lost to Forest Park in its season opener Friday night.
"Morrow is a hungry football team," said Davis. "They have a new coach, so we are going to have to be ready."
North Clayton will try and get it season back on track against Lovejoy. A year, the Eagles upset the Wildcats. Lovejoy opened its season Thursday night with an 48-12 win against Mt. Zion.