Photo by Curt Yeomans / North Clayton running back La'Darrius Mathis can find little running room as he is tackled by Riverdale defensive back Steve Harris (5) and another player in the Raiders' 21-0 win.
Visiting Riverdale High School played the role of opportunistic guest perfectly on Friday night, accounting for all of its points in the second quarter courtesy of three North Clayton first-half miscues in breezing to an easy 21-0 Southern Classic season-opening win at Southern Crescent Stadium.
The Raiders made the most of the two costly interceptions and a botched punt attempt so graciously provided by their hosts, scoring touchdowns on all three miscues to roll to their first win over the Eagles since 2006.
Junior quarterback Greg Taylor accounted for two scores, while Kamhad Magwood added another on the ground as Riverdale broke open what had been a scoreless game in improving to 1-0 going into next week’s home date with Drew.
“We made a lot of plays when we had to,” Raiders coach Olten Downs said. “Our kids stepped up to the plate and made plays when they had to.”
Taylor completed just four of his 14 pass attempts for 52 yards, but made several key plays when necessary. He broke open a scoreless game early in the second quarter when he darted in from two yards out on a fourth-down bootleg that put his team ahead, 7-0, with 9:36 left in the half. Senior cornerback Josh Powell had set up the short 28-yard scoring march with his interception of a Jeremy Daniels pass and subsequent 56-yard return.
Magwood added three of his team-high 77 yards when he plunged into the endzone to push the score to 14-0 with 4:02 left in the half. The drive was again set up by a North Clayton mistake, this one being a low snap on a punt attempt by Demetrich Sanders that resulted in a 15-yard loss that again gave Riverdale a short field with which to work.
Taylor closed out the game’s scoring moments later, teaming up with Rashad Canty on a 26-yard pass-and-catch for a touchdown with 1:17 left in the half.
Downs lauded his team for finding ways to win despite its own offensive shortcomings.
“We just needed some momentum,” he said. “We hadn’t beaten North Clayton in years. Our kids had to get over the hump.”
North Clayton falls to 0-1 despite mustering 219 yards of total offense on the night to the Raiders’ 176. Senior tailback La’Darius Mathis did most of the heavy lifting for the hosts, chewing up 156 yards on 21 carries in the losing effort.
The Eagles were their own worst enemy all evening, starting from the game’s first play when an apparent Mathis 60-yard touchdown scamper was called back by an illegal procedure penalty.
The play was a harbinger of things to come for North Clayton, which added eight penalties to its four turnovers on the evening.
“Way too many mistakes,” Eagles coach Max Wiltz lamented. “Every time we got a drive going, we went backwards. It was a shame because we knew coming in that the game was going to boil down to who made the most plays, who made the least mistakes and who executed the best. They did all three better than we did.”
— John Hollis, Special to the Daily