Photo by Jerry Jackson
Riverdale’s Josh Powell (2) braces for impact from two Upson-Lee defenders Friday at Southern Crescent Stadium.
RIVERDALE — It is rare for a high school football team to sport a dominant running game and then add an equally efficient passing game before the season is out. But that’s exactly what the Riverdale Raiders have done. The Raiders used their newfound balance Friday to hold off Upson-Lee 36-23 at Southern Crescent Stadium.
Sophomore Asania Aderhold, making his first career start after being impressive off the bench a week earlier, passed for 234 yards, 194 in the first half, and two touchdowns in the Raider win.
“I was kind of nervous, but after playing, my confidence built up and I was able to do what I can,” Aderhold said.
Aderhold connected with Kamhad Magwood on 61-yard wideout screen for a touchdown to put Riverdale up 7-3 with 7:10 left in the second quarter. On his very next pass, he found Rashad Canty over the middle for a 76-yard touchdown and 14-3 lead. The pass went about 20 yards in the air before Canty hauled it in, spun out of a tackle, and raced toward the end zone.
“As a receiver, it’s always exciting when you’re passing the ball,” said Canty, who hauled in three passes for 95 yards. “We just need balance to have a complete offense.”
Riverdale (6-2, 3-1) showed confidence in its passing game all night, throwing once on a fourth-and-2 and once from its 5-yard line. In fact in the first half, the Raiders called 13 passing plays compared to just eight runs.
“We needed a spark on offense,” said Riverdale head coach Olten Downs. “We know we’ve got to pass the ball to be able to continue to win.”
“We just work on it in practice,” Aderhold added after completing 11 of his 16 passes. “We try to get that chemistry with me and the receivers and backs.”
Riverdale got back to its ground-game script from earlier in the season in the second half, rushing for 207 of its 228 yards. Included in that total was Magwood’s chilling 54-yard touchdown off a jet sweep in which he violently ran through Upson-Lee defensive back Zemal Fuentes on his way to the end zone. The run came just one carry after Magwood lost a fumble.
“I got mad,” Magwood said after rushing for 122 yards on 13 carries. “Coach told me to take it out on the game, keep my head in the game, and I just ran him over and scored.”
That score put Riverdale up 21-10, but Upson-Lee could not be counted out. Knights quarterback Corey Moss scored from 4 yards to cut the Raiders’ lead to 21-16 with 7:48 left. Riverdale responded with a six-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Ti’Keem Cooper rushing for a 29-yard touchdown and 29-16 lead. Another Moss 4-yard touchdown run cut the lead to 29-23.
Upson-Lee (3-4, 1-2) was able to stop Riverdale and set up what it hoped to be a game-winning drive. Isa Muhammad had other ideas though.
Muhammad intercepted a Moss pass and took it back 50 yards for a touchdown to seal the Raiders’ win.
Riverdale has one more Region 4-AAAA, Division B game left — against county rival Jonesboro.
“It’s a big time game for us,” Downs said.
The winner will likely take home second place in the subregion and host a play-in game.