By Darren Nichols
RIVERDALE, Ga. —The Riverdale Raiders broke their month-long absence under the Friday Night Lights to finally come back to face the Class 4A No. 7 Fayette County Tigers on the Eve of Halloween. The result was a scary one for coach Nick Davis and his Fayette County squad, as Riverdale blasted the Tigers 32-0.
The Raiders were helped by impressive performances from quarterback Avaun Rucker who threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more, while South Carolina commit Derwin Burgess recorded scoring grab. And the offense was undergirded by a stingy Riverdale defense.
Following a 20-12 loss in their previous game to Pebblebrook which came on Friday, October 2, the Raiders looked to climb back into the winner’s circle and atop the Region 5A standings. Fayette County (5-2, 3-1) came into the game with the momentum of a four-game winning streak and the first season with more than five wins since 2007.
Most would think that a 28-day absence from play may leave a team rusty in its return, but the Raiders didn’t care much about what most think. They came out firing on all cylinders and maintained that approach throughout the entire game.
“It was totally the opposite effect,” said head coach Rodney Hackney. “We were banged up. Derwin Burgess was banged up and our offensive line too, so the break really worked in our favor. The four weeks helped out to prepare for this game. It is about as long as we had to prepare for the first game of the season.”
The Raiders did look well-rested from the onset, and the month of preparation seemed to work wonders, particularly for Riverdale’s defense. The Tigers came into this game averaging 32 points per game in their last four contests but flawless execution from the Raiders’ defense resulted in their second shutout of the season while forcing three turnovers and four punts.
As for scoring, after the first two drives feeling out the Tigers defense and both drives ending in punts, Burgess got the party started with a 2-yard touchdown catch from Rucker that gave Fayette County a 7-0 lead early.
Rucker picked up where Burgess left off after his first touchdown pass as he was then responsible for three touchdowns after that. Rucker ended the game with four total touchdowns, two in the air and two on the ground. Running back Malik Harris sealed the deal with a 30-yard touchdown run with 7:35 to go in the fourth quarter to end any speculation of a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback.
Hackney heaped praise on Rucker after the impressive performance.
“Rucker is either all on and great or he is all off, and he was on tonight,” Hackney. “He came out throwing the ball great, and when he does that, we’re tough to beat.”
The Raiders used Hackney’s “24-hour rule” to take a break from football and celebrate this win and then got back to work Sunday preparing for another region tussle with Hampton (2-6, 1-3) Friday.