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Riverdale hires Herrod as new football coach

Photo by Derrick Mahone / Dutchtown defensive coordinator Terry Herrod would make a good choice for the Bulldogs next head coach.

Photo by Derrick Mahone / Dutchtown defensive coordinator Terry Herrod would make a good choice for the Bulldogs next head coach.

RIVERDALE — Last season, it took the son of a drill sergeant instructor and a graduate of Shaw High School to get Riverdale back to the state playoffs for the first time in seven years.

Now the Raiders get another one.

Former Dutchtown defensive coordinator Terry Herrod was hired as Riverdale’s new head football coach, replacing Olten Downs who left after two seasons to become head coach at Creekside.

“[Riverdale] has a rich history,” Herrod said. “I just can’t wait to be a part of that.”

Herrod said he has no plans of a complete overhaul. After all, Downs impressed in his two seasons at Riverdale. He came from state power Carver-Columbus at 27 and went 11-10 in two seasons with the Raiders, including 7-4 this past fall with a trip to the Class AAAA playoffs, the program’s first since 2005.

“I’m inheriting a team that made the playoffs. It’s not like we’ve got to start over or anything,” Herrod said. “I’m going to build on the things Olten has done.”

Herrod uses Downs’ first name because they have a unique connection. They’re both graduates from Shaw High in Columbus. Herrod played football at Shaw with Downs’ older brother for three years. Herrod said Downs was the team’s ball boy.

“He’s a great individual,” Herrod said, “and he comes from a great family.”

Herrod coached five seasons at Dutchtown during which the Bulldogs reached the Class AAAA quarterfinals in 2010 with the top scoring defense in the classification. Under Herrod’s direction, Dutchtown became known for its aggressive defense that relied heavily on blitzes to put pressure on high school quarterbacks.

That’s the extent of Herrod’s high school football coaching experience, but he said he’s spent the past five years devouring any resource he could find in hopes of one day becoming a head coach.

“I’ve either been talking to somebody about football, researching, sitting in a clinc, watching film,” Herrod said. “Everything I did was to prepare for this opportunity.”

Herrod’s only head coaching experience is the past season with Dutchtown’s boys basketball team. The Bulldogs made the Class AAAA tournament for the second straight season.

The year gave Herrod a dose of the life of a head coach. Balance was critical, he said, in trying to manage a coaching staff, work with school administration, connect with parents and the community, teach a class and coach players.

“Being a head basketball coach was sort of icing on the cake to prepare to be a head football coach,” Herrod said. “They’re different sports, but the responsibilities are similar. ...That was a good experience.”

Herrod also brought an unique experience to the interview — Dutchtown’s 38-0 victory over Riverdale last season.

At the time, the Raiders were 3-0 and had entered the top-10 rankings for the first time since 2005. But Herrod and the Bulldogs dominated the Raiders. Herrod thought the outcome wasn’t related to disparities in talent or coaching but a case of Riverdale getting wrapped up in its surprising early-season success.

“Athletically they were better than us,” Herrod said. “They were longer and more athletic. I think they just took us lightly.”

Dutchtown comes to Clayton County to play Riverdale on September 20 next season.

With Herrod on the other side, Riverdale won’t take Dutchtown lightly again.

“It’s going to be a very evenly matched game and a fun contest,” Herrod said.