By Brian Howard
Abdul Cole spent his first year of varsity football wondering if he would fit in on the football field, but after Friday night's Riverdale-Lovejoy game, the junior kicker knows where he stands.
The veteran soccer player booted a career-long 40-yard field goal, which bounced off the crossbar and over, with less than 30 seconds remaining to lift Riverdale to a 37-34 victory at Twelve Oaks Stadium, snapping a three-game skid against the Wildcats.
"I thought it was short when I kicked it," said Cole, who hit three field goals, but none as in question as the last one. "I was happy to see it bounce over."
Raiders coach Nick Davis praised Cole by giving him the game ball after the victory a year after struggling against Lovejoy.
"Last year he started late with us," Davis said. "In this game last year, he missed an extra point and missed a field goal right before half. So he was upset all year and had been looking forward to this game. He came through big for us."
With the scored tied 27-27 early in the fourth quarter, Kelvin Colbert, who rushed for 102 yards on 15 carries, scored on a 41-yard run, giving the Raiders (3-0) a 34-27 lead.
But the Wildcats (1-2) answered by going 65 yards in just two plays.
Mario Fannin broke loose for a 41-yard gain, followed by a 24-yard touchdown scamper by Levi Edge, tying the game at 34.
The Raiders mounted a time-consuming 11-play drive that ended with Cole's game-winning field goal.
Fannin still had one more shot at his own heroics for Lovejoy, but his pass in the end zone as time ran out was intercepted by Emmett Merchant.
Fannin was 9 of 23 passing for 102 yards and was intercepted twice. He had 10 carries for 79 yards, while Edge had 15 touches for 116 yards and two scores.
Chad Morgan led the Raiders' ground attack with 178 yards on 18 carries, while Calvary Akins finished with 98 yards on eight touches.
"I was proud of the kids," Wildcats defensive coach David Hughes said. "We still got a lot of work to do because we are not taking care of the responsibilities that we're trying to get across to them. We're hoping to come out and get a good week of practice this week and try to get back on the right track."
Fannin hooked up with Curtis Strong over the middle for a 42-yard touchdown in the opening quarter, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
But the rest of the first quarter belonged to Riverdale.
The Raiders answered the scoring strike by putting together a seven-play drive, capped by an Akins 54-yard run off left tackle.
After being forced to go three-and-out on its next series, Lovejoy punted and Colbert weaved in and out of traffic for a 73-yard punt return, giving Riverdale a 14-3 lead.
Cole booted a 32-yard field goal early in the second quarter, giving Riverdale a 17-7 lead, but penalties plagued the Raiders defense on Lovejoy's next drive, leading to a Strong 9-yard score, cutting the lead to 17-14.
Akins gave Riverdale a 10-point lead by scoring on a 21-yard run right before halftime.
But the momentum shifted back to Lovejoy early in the third quarter, as Edge scored on a 44-yard run and Strong recovered a 48-yard fumble for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 27-24 lead.
Cole's 28-yard field goal with three minutes left in the third tied the game at 27.
Riverdale plays next Saturday against Mundy's Mill, while Lovejoy meets Morrow.