RIVERDALE RAIDERS

Head Coach: Rodney Hackney

2017 Record: 1-9

Region: 3-AAAAA

NORTH CLAYTON EAGLES

Head Coach: Cap Burnett

2017 Record: 4-7

Region: 4-AAAA

Outlook: It has been several years since the “Southside Classic” rivalry game between North Clayton and Riverdale has had as many storylines heading into Friday night’s latest installment.

Most notable is the return of Rodney Hackney to the Riverdale sideline. Hackney coached at Riverdale in the early 2000s before moving on to North Clayton later in the decade. The veteran head coach knows more than most about what the rivalry game means to the people in the northern part of the county.

“Man, this rivalry used to be everything in Clayton County and to some people it still is,” he said. “I have been a part of some of the big games in the rivalry dating back to 2000…I am looking forward to the challenge because we lost to North Clayton last year, so I know we have to play a mistake-free ball game to overcome last year’s loss and mistakes.”

Hackney took over the program earlier this year following a 1-9 season. The cupboard is not bare though, as Clemson commit Jaelyn Lay and gifted wide receiver Derwin Burgess Jr. are among the top players in the county.

Over at North Clayton, all Cap Burnett has done since taking over his Alma Mater two seasons ago is qualify for the state playoffs each year. The Eagles have returned to the playoff mix by playing quality defense — Burnett’s side allowed less than 20 points in seven of 11 games last season. The 2018 unit will be young, but Burnett said he’s looking forward to watching it grow.

“Defense, it’s a whole new crew,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge. A lot of young guys will be playing. I love defense, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Friday’s game will also see junior Courtney Colbert make his first start at quarterback. He will play behind one of the county’s most experienced offensive lines, led by seniors Larry Williams and Darreyon Thomas.

“All my offensive line is coming back from last year, so I’m expecting them to be a whole lot better. I’m leaning on them,” Burnett said.

Hackney and Burnett have lived the “Southside Classic” rivalry and are anxious to put on a good show for the fans Friday night.

“I have known Cap for long time actually, even when he played back in 1997,” Hackney said. “He is a true Clayton County product and I have a lot respect for him as player and even more as a coach. He brings a lot of spirit and mental toughness back to North Clayton area and that always makes his team so dangerous in a game like this because I know he will have the Eagles fired up and ready for this game on Friday.”

When: Friday, Aug. 17

Where: Southern Crescent Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Last Meeting: North Clayton 12, Riverdale 0 (2017)

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Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.