MURFREESBORO – Riverdale felt good in the first quarter Friday, having taken a 7-3 lead on Marcus Lloyd’s short touchdown run.
Oakland, however, dialed up the heat defensively after that, stonewalling the visiting Warriors the rest of the night.
In a battle of two of the area’s best defenses, the Patriots stood taller in a 24-7 victory at Ray Hughes Stadium on Friday.
Lloyd broke off a 66-yard run in the first quarter to set up his 2-yard scoring plunge, Riverdale’s only points of the evening.
Less than two minutes later, Oakland (8-0 overall, 4-0 Region 4-6A) responded in a big way with Kade Hewitt finding Isaiah Horton in stride for a 64-yard touchdown that sent the Patriots on their way.
It was fitting for Hewitt, who transferred from Riverdale to Oakland before this season. Hewitt started last year’s version of the Battle of the ‘Boro at quarterback for the Warriors when starter Jameson Holcomb was out with an injury.
“It felt great,” Hewitt said. “I’ve been working with this family that had welcomed me and I had no hard feelings toward (Riverdale). I love those guys, too. They’re just as much family as (Oakland) is, because relationships, they last forever if they’re real.”
Hewitt had to endure a little good-natured ribbing about swapping sides from his coaches during the week, naturally.
“He didn’t really talk about it much,” Creasy said. “We aggravated him about it a little bit and he just laughed it off. He knew what was on the line, I mean anybody that started three or four games for (Riverdale) last year and comes over here and starts for us, I think he knew what was on the line and his biggest thing was if he handed it off every time and we won our region game tonight, he would have been fine with that.”
Lloyd finished with 110 yards on 18 attempts, providing most of the Warriors’ offense. Horton won Great American Rivalry Series Most Valuable Player honors with his six-catch, 120-yard effort in the contest. Jordan James had 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
C.J. Puckett’s 38-yard touchdown run with 3:03 left in the first half provided the final margin of victory as neither side scored in the second half.
“The second quarter was the worst quarter we had,” Riverdale head coach Will Kriesky said. “If we had played the second quarter like we did the rest, we’d have been all right. But the second quarter, we really struggled to move the ball and we kept a lot of time on the clock and they were able to capitalize.”
Oakland’s 24 points nearly doubled Riverdale’s defensive allowance for the season, as the Warrior defense had only allowed 27 total points in seven games with four shutouts.
“Our guys kept fighting and kept working,” Kriesky said. “They didn’t give up and they saw that if we quit making mistakes, we’ll be all right. But we hurt ourselves, and we can’t hurt ourselves.”
In recent years, Oakland has typically locked up the region title after defeating Riverdale. That’s not the case this season, however, as Rockvale’s surge continued with a 50-45 victory over visiting Blackman, ensuring that the top seed was still in play in Week 11 when the Patriots travel to face the Rockets.
That fact put a smile on Creasy’s face.
“That’s really the way it’s supposed to be,” Creasy said. “Boy, credit (Rockvale head coach Rick Rice). I knew he was the right guy for the job. I don’t know how many doubters there were the first year, maybe even the second year, but Coach Rice is one heck of a coach and we’ll have our hands full.”
The Patriots travel to South Pittsburg on Thursday for a non-region contest, while Riverdale (7-1, 3-1) hosts East Nashville on Friday.