Photo by Derrick Mahone
Riverdale first-year coach Olten Downs seems to have the Raiders pointed in the right direction. The team can finish with a .500 record with a win over seventh-ranked Lovejoy tonight.
While Riverdale’s playoff chances have long passed, Lovejoy has already secured its second straight Region 4-AAAA championship.
However, when these two teams meet tonight at Southern Crescent Stadium, they still have much to play for.
Riverdale, under first-year coach Olten Downs, will try to secure its first non-losing season since going 5-5 during both the 2006 and ’07 seasons. The Raiders also will observe senior night and will retire the jersey of former player Will Rackley, who is now a member of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars team.
Riverdale enters the 7:30 p.m. game with a 4-5 record overall and in the region. In each of the last two seasons, the Raiders could only manage a pair of 2-8 seasons.
It has been a total different story for Lovejoy.
The Wildcats will ride a 20-game win streak — not counting playoff games — into the matchup as they try to cap off consecutive 10-0 regular seasons. Lovejoy has won the previous two meetings and enjoys an 8-7 edge in the series.
“We are definitely not trying to overlook anybody,” Lovejoy defensive back Rico McWilliams said. “We still have to take care of business.”
So far this season, it has been all business for Lovejoy, which has recorded seven shutouts.
Tri-Cities is the only team that has scored an offensive touchdown on the Wildcats, who are averaging 33 points per game. Many of the team’s scores have come from its defense and special teams.
Lovejoy does have a potent offense, which is led by juniors Travis Custis at running back and quarterback Alejandro Bennifield. In its 24-0 win over Creekside last week to clinch the region title, Custis rushed for 269 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.
“We have to start getting in that playoff mind frame now,” McWilliams said. “We can’t take anybody lightly. Riverdale will have its senior day and they will be pumped up. They have nothing to lose at this point.”