Photo by Dennis Thomas
Riverdale running back Ti'Keem Cooper looks for some running room in the Raider loss to No. 10 Griffin on Friday at Tara Stadium.
JONESBORO — It was evident Friday that Griffin was ready to put its first loss of the season in the distant past. And there was an even greater indication that Riverdale still has some growing to do as a program.
The Raiders spotted No. 10 Griffin a 28-point lead before falling short in a 35-14 loss at Tara Stadium in a key Region 4-AAAA, Division B game.
Griffin jumped to a 28-0 lead early in the third quarter, but a special teams mistake triggered the Raiders’ scoring opportunities.
After stopping Griffin’s second drive of the second half, Riverdale blocked a punt that sailed out the back of the end zone for a safety and it trailed 28-2 with 5:49 remaining.
The Raiders would go on to score two touchdowns to pull to within 28-14 with 7:37 remaining in the game.
However, the Bears converted a Riverdale turnover into a touchdown to pad their lead to 35-14 with two minutes remaining.
Riverdale coach Olten Downs pointed to blown scoring opportunities as his team’s downfall.
Riverdale had the ball four times inside Griffin’s 25, but was unable to generate any points.
“That is the story of the game,” Downs said. “We didn’t capitalize on the opportunites that the defense gave us. Any time you do not come away with points in those situations, it will come back to bite you in the butt.”
With the win, Griffin improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the subregion, while Riverdale dropped to 4-2 and 1-1.
The pounding running game that Riverdale used to defeat Eagle’s Landing last week never materialized on Friday. Against Eagle’s Landing, Riverdale had three running backs to go over the 100-yard mark.
Griffin held the Raiders to only 84 yards on the ground.
The only positive from the running game came when Ti’Keem Cooper scored on a 4-yard run with 7:37 remaining as the Raiders trailed 28-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to have players make plays,” Downs said. “The receivers can’t drop balls, and the quarterback has got to throw the ball.”
Griffin dismissed any idea that it was ripe for another upset, coming off its first loss of the season on a last-second field goal in a 17-14 loss to Stockbridge. The Bears showed no signs of being a shaken team, scoring 14 points in the first quarter.
Although not pleased with the loss, Downs said he was happy that his team gave a better account of itself in a big game. In an much-anticipated showdown at Dutchtown three weeks ago, Riverdale appeared overmatched in a 38-0 loss.
“We are still a young team and program,” Downs said. “We have to learn to play better against the elite teams. I was pleased that we didn’t get as rattled this time.”
It will be a short week for the Raiders as they take on Spalding on Thursday at Southern Crescent Stadium.
Spalding is led by former Riverdale coach Nick Davis.
“I’m sure the guys want to give a good account against their former coach,” Downs said. “I’m hoping that they can respond from this loss. The last time we lost, we came back real strong.”