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Riverdale-Jonesboro contest has big playoff possibilities

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Riverdale coach Olten Downs will be looking for some “growth and maturity” in his team when they take on seventh-ranked Jonesboro on Saturday in a key subregion game.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Riverdale coach Olten Downs will be looking for some “growth and maturity” in his team when they take on seventh-ranked Jonesboro on Saturday in a key subregion game.

JONESBORO — When his team takes on seventh-ranked Jonesboro tonight at Tara Stadium, Riverdale coach Olten Downs is looking for some growth and maturity in his players.

In two previous big games, the Raiders lacked both and they were defeated by Dutchtown and Griffin.

The Raiders can’t afford another letdown in this key Region 4-AAAA, Division B contest. The winner will likely finish as the No. 2 seed for the region play-in game next month. Riverdale is 3-1 in the subregion while the Cardinals are 2-1.

Jonesboro will wrap-up its regular season with a game against Upson-Lee next week at Twelve Oaks Stadium while the Raiders have a bye week before their play-in game. The No. 2 seed in each subregion takes on the No. 3 team in the opposite subregion with the winners advancing to the state playoffs.

Griffin is currently the top team in the B subregion.

Downs’ immediate concern is getting a win over Jonesboro.

The Raiders, who are 6-2 overall, have come up short in big games. A week after a surprising win over a then-ranked Grady team, Riverdale was defeated 38-0 at Dutchtown in a key region crossover game.

Griffin defeated the Raiders 35-14 two weeks later.

“I sure hope that we have grown up and learned from those games,” Downs said. “We beat the teams we should have beaten, but have not performed up to our standards in the bigger games. We must play mistake-free football to win.”

Jonesboro, which finished second in the region last season, defeated Riverdale 31-30 as the Raiders finished the season with a 4-6 record.

Cardinal players say they will not take anything for granted.

“This is a very important game,” Jonesboro wide receiver/cornerback Taurean Ferguson said. “It’s going to be a good test for both teams. There is a lot to play for in this game.”

The game will pit two up-and-coming quarterbacks against each other. Jonesboro is led by junior Mario Atkinson, who has been spectacular in his first season as a starter. He has passed for more than 1,200 yards.

Riverdale will start sophomore Asania Aderhold, who will make only his second career varsity start. Last week in a 36-23 win over Upson-Lee at Southern Crescent Stadium, Aderhold passed for 227 yards.

“He played really well, and we are hoping that he can keep it going,” Downs said.

“The last two weeks, I’ve really gotten a big boost in my confidence,” Aderhold said. “I’ve seen where my teammates believe in me.”