Tonight’s match-up with Dutchtown will pitch Riverdale coach Terry Herrod against his former team. Herrod spent five years as a defensive coach at Dutchtown prior to take over the Raiders program last spring. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — Terry Herrod does admit that there is a deep emotional attachment for tonight’s game against Dutchtown.
It goes beyond the scoreboard.
After spending the majority of his coaching career as a defensive assistant at the Henry County school, the last three as defensive coordinator, Herrod has an undeniable connection.
But tonight at Southern Crescent Stadium, the first-year Riverdale coach will put those feelings to the side as the Raiders meet Dutchtown in a key early season match-up.
“Every game is big,” Herrod said. “It’s a region game, so it is definitely big. With us coming off a loss, our players want to get that losing taste out of their mouths.”
After giving the normal coach speak, Herrod did let on to the emotional side of the game.
“I have a lot of feelings about the whole place,” he said. “I spent half a decade coaching kids at Dutchtown. I have formed a lot of good relationships with the kids and their families. I have a lot of feelings for that place. At this point, I just want to get to it, and get it over with.”
Last week, Riverdale lost 35-34 at Grady in overtime after a missed extra-point attempt.
“We did everything we could to give that game away,” Herrod said. “I believe you learn more from your setbacks than in your victories.”
The players say they understand Herrod’s attachment to his former school. For that reason, they want to win one for the coach.
“We are looking forward to this game,” Riverdale senior center Darrel Edosa said. “It is a special game for coach Herrod, and we want to win it for the coach. We feel it is going to be a good game.”
That was the expectation last season when the two teams met in Hampton. Riverdale had just been ranked in the Associated Press poll for the first time in several years. However, the Raiders were not able to handle the situation as they were shelled 38-0 on Sept. 21 of last season.
“We are definitely going in with the mindset to win,” said Riverdale quarterback Greg Taylor, who has passed for 661 yards and six touchdowns this season. “After the way we lost last season to them, it has made us more hungry.”
This is also a homecoming of sorts for first-year Dutchtown coach Kevin Jones, who spent the last six seasons as the defensive coordinator at Lovejoy. In 2006, he was the head coach at Riverdale, and led the team to a 7-3 record. However, the next season, the school hired a new principal and Jones was not retained.
Prior to last season’s 7-4 record, Jones’ season had been the last winning season for the school.
Jones has indicated that his team is approaching it as just another game on the schedule.
“We certainly didn’t circle it (on the calendar), I can tell you that much,” Jones said. “It’s a regular game for us. It has no additional ramifications for us. Those last four games at the end of the schedule determine who goes to the playoffs. We don’t have the luxury of putting more interest on Riverdale as opposed to anyone else. We’re still in the formative stage of getting it right here. We’re definitely not in a place where we can be highlighting a certain game.”