It’s playoff time in Tennessee! For round one we were treated to a great matchup between two talented teams in Riverdale and Green Hills. You could argue that Green Hill is a better team than their seeding would indicate, and Riverdale was going to have to show up and be mentally prepared to move on to the next round and avoid a third straight ousting by a Wilson county team despite being a district champion one seed.
The Warriors came out with enough energy to power a small town but unfortunately could not channel that energy into the clock operation technology that was not working at first, delaying the game to start the night. The energy, however, was on the side of the Hawks early as Will Milner intercepted Mr. Football semifinalist, Braden Graham, and then ran it back 80 yards for the opening score to take all the momentum early on the road. The Warriors had taken a punch early on at home. How would they respond with the fans thinking, “not again.” In tough situations your best players have to make plays and the Warriors did just that as Graham found Michigan State commit Jaylen Thompson who weaved through the Hawks defense for a 25 yard score. The PAT was missed and our score with six minutes to go in the first quarter was 7-6 Green Hill. Braden Graham passed the 100 yard mark through the air just before the first quarter came to a close with Riverdale threatening the Hawks one point lead after turning away the Green Hill offense.
To start the second quarter, Riverdale faced a fourth and short on the Green Hill 17-yard line. After the Warriors were unable to convert the fourth, the Hawks took over facing down a defensive front that stalled their last drive with back-to-back sacks. After moving the ball with more success, the drive eventually stalled and the punt team pinned the Warriors back on their own eight yard line. While a 92-yard drive seems like a tall task, Riverdale made short work of it on the back of three great pitches and catches with an eventual Keshawn Williams touchdown. After another missed PAT, Riverdale led 12-7. Needing a response from the offense, Green Hill was hit with a worst-case scenario with a fumble recovered by Riverdale on their first play of the drive. The Warriors now had an opportunity to stretch their lead before the half. They did just that in little to no time as the Warriors scored their first rushing touchdown and the score was now 19-7. Green Hill’s only points, with just under five minutes to go in the half, came from their defense and Riverdale was making them pay outside of that pick. They needed points from their offense before going to the locker room. After chaining together a few first downs in a row, a tick play capped off their best drive of the night with a 42-yard pass from Kannon Burroughs to Aaron Mattingly. Something disruptive was in the air for the special teams units as Green Hill suffered a missed PAT of their own. This made the score 19-14. The special teams continued to have an impact on the game as the ensuing kickoff was returned 75 yards for a touchdown by Isaiah Verser to make the score 26-13. With still three minutes to go in the half there was still time for more points. It ended up being just enough time for points as Riverdale extended their lead as Ben Woodruff spun off a tackle for a third passing touchdown from Graham with 20 seconds remaining in the half with the ball going Riverdale’s way after the half. The Warriors exploded for 27 points in the second quarter and our score at the break was 33-13 Warriors.
The way the first drive from the Warriors unfolded was going to be a tell for how the rest of the game was going to go. with a touchdown Riverdale could all but push it out of reach for the Hawks. The Warriors picked up where they left off and mounted their longest drive of the night so far and extended the lead to 40-13. Things went from bad to worse for the Hawks as their next drive was ended by a Warrior interception on the goal line. Riverdale’s offense slowed down operationally as they were content to run more clock. A 35-yard field goal by Khalil Arman extended the Warriors’ lead to 33-13 and the running clock was now in effect as we entered the fourth quarter.
As time rolled in the fourth, Isaiah Verser added to his impressive night with a 60 yard touchdown run to make it 50-13. If Riverdale advancing wasn’t obvious yet, Green Hill subbed in their backup quarterback for their next drive as both teams waited for the clock to expire. The Riverdale faithful began to celebrate and as the final horn sounded, the Warriors officially had a date with Cookeville in the second round. Riverdale survived and advanced with a dominant performance at home by a final score of 50-13 after Braden Graham rebounded from his early pick six and showed why he is a Mr. Football semifinalist.