(FAYETTEVILLE, GA) – Coach Rodney Hackney and his Riverdale Raiders took another step towards their first region championship since 1998 when they defeated the Whitewater Wildcats 27-16 Friday night. The Raiders used two big plays, a 65-yard TD pass from Avaun Rucker and a 42-yard TD run from Phalon Daniels on a rainy evening for the victory.
With the win, the Raiders are guaranteed a playoff spot for the second year in a row. Coach Hackney returned to Riverdale last season and earned a postseason berth. He also coached the Raiders from 2001 to 2003. In all, he has taken them to the playoffs every season he has been the head coach.
His current team is well balanced, they have a smart and athletic quarterback in Rucker, a speedster in Derwin Burgess and a bruising inside runner in Daniels. On top of their offensive weapons, they have a lock-down defense that creates match up problems up front with their athletic defensive line.
The Raiders took a lead when they grinded out a 7 play 72-yard drive that culminated with a Malik Harris 18-yard TD run. Meanwhile, the defense was completely shutting down the Wildcat offense lead by senior quarterback Maddox Mueller. Mueller had put up some big numbers when the two teams met last year at Southern Crescent Stadium. He passed for 179 yards and rushed for another 83 in the Wildcats 49-35 loss to the Raiders.
It took the Raiders 9 plays to score on their next drive, this one went 71 total yards and saw Daniels score from the five-yard line to give Riverdale a 14-0 lead. The Wildcats would get a field goal right before the half.
With the rain starting to settle in after the half, Rucker found Tremain Moore for a 65-yard TD pass to give the Raiders a 21-3 lead.
The Wildcats scored a couple of touchdowns behind the gritty running of Mueller to close to 21-16. They attempted an on-side kick to get one final chance to get the lead, but it was recovered by the Raiders. Daniels slammed the door shut when he took a hand-off 42-yards for the final TD of the night.
Coach Hackney was glad to get out with the win,
“We had a lot of distractions to deal with, we were the Team of the Week for Fox-5 and we were coming off an emotional win last week against Jonesboro. While we played up to our ability, at times we made a lot of mistakes.”Coach Rodney Hackney
The win left the Raiders 4-0 in Region 3-AAAAA and sets up a key game against the three-time region champion Starr’s Mill Panthers on Saturday night for the top spot. Coach Hackney added,
“We are going to enjoy this one tonight, but we got Starr’s Mill coming up, they got us last year for the region championship, so we are back in the same boat again, and it’s a good place to be.”
Daniels finished the night with 138 yards on 21 carries and two TDs while Rucker passed for 142 yards, including a TD. Mueller lead the Wildcats with 136 yard rushing and 95 yards passing.
The Raiders (7-1) host Starr’s Mill (5-3) at Southern Crescent Stadium on Saturday night.