By Brian Howard
Defense will be the key in Saturday night's matchup of two undefeated football teams as Riverdale meets Mundy's Mill 7:30 p.m. at Tara Stadium.
Both squads have opened the season strong with 3-0 records, but the team that doesn't turn the ball over should walk away the winner, Mundy's Mill first-year coach Kenneth Barrow said.
"They (Riverdale) are a very good ballclub," Barrow said. "This game will be a big test for us to see where we are as a team. I think the team that minimizes their mistakes will come away with the win."
Although the task will be tough for the teams, the game could be tougher on the coaches, who grew up in the same home town.
"Coach Kenny Barrow is a good coach and I know him well," Riverdale second-year coach Nick Davis said. "We grew up in the same hometown of Griffin, Ga., so I know the type of work ethic he has instilled on those kids.
"You look at his track record of winning a state championship as a coordinator and taking ML King to the Dome last year. So I know they will be well-coached and well-prepared."
Prior to coming to Mundy's Mill, Barrow served as an assistant coach for Marion County (1984-85), Newton County (1985-92), Griffin (1998-99) and Morrow (1999-2001). He also served as an assistant coach to William "Buck" Godfrey at Southwest DeBalb for six years, helping lead the Panthers to the AAAA state title in 1995.
His last stop before joining the Tigers was at MLK High School (2001-04). He led the program to the quarterfinals in '03 and the semifinals in '04.
Barrow, who inherited a team that went 3-6-1 last season, has already instilled a gameplan for the Tigers' offense - running the football.
Erroll Wynn has been the Tigers' non-stop ground attack. The senior running back amassed 178-yards on 42 carries with a pair of touchdowns in a Mundy's Mill 26-7 victory over Morrow last Friday night. Wynn has eclipsed the 100-yard mark every week the Tigers have played.
"There is no secret to what we want to do against Riverdale," Borrow said. "We want to run the football and control the game."
Davis knows how tough the Tigers can be, not just stopping another top player, but facing a team that has a strong, dominate offensive and defensive line.
"I think the key for us defensively is how we do standing the physical pounding on their offensive line and the great running back they have in Erroll Wynn," Davis said. "Our offense needs to get into a groove early and not turn the football over. If we can get into that groove early and not turn the ball over, and sustain our blocks, I think we'll do fine.
"If we don't make any mistakes and be solid in the kicking game, I think that will be the difference in the game."
The Raiders got the "monkey off the back" last week with a 37-34 victory over rival Lovejoy, snapping a three-game skid against the Wildcats.
Riverdale's defense surrendered 306 total yards, but limited University of Auburn committment Mario Fannin to just 79 yards on 10 carries on the ground. In the air, Fannin was 9-of-23 for 102 yards and had two interceptions.
Althought the Raiders turned the ball over once that went for a Lovejoy score, Riverdale's strength came from junior kicker Abdul Cole.
Cole was 4-of-4 on extra points and 3-of-3 on field goals, including the game-winner with less than 30 seconds to play.
Barrow said the Tigers will need to focus on trying to stop three players - quarterback Roderick Mason, fullback Chad Morgan and tailback Kelvin Colbert.
"They have a good quarterback, fullback and tailback," Barrow said. "On film they look real good and we need to play good defense to beat them."
Mason, although not completing a pass, finished with 24 yards on 10 touches, while Morgan had 178 yards on 18 carries, and Colbert added 15 rushes for 102 yards in the win against Lovejoy.
In last year's contest, Riverdale got the better of the Tigers in double overtime with a 27-26 victory.
Mundy's Mill plays host to East Coweta in a Region 4-AAAAA opener next Friday at Twelve Oaks Stadium, while Riverdale travels to Lithonia for its second 2-AAAAA contest of the season next Saturday. The Raiders are 1-0 in the region, beating Morrow Aug. 25, 20-7.