Warriors score 21 fourth-quarter points to down Siegel in critical 4-6A tilt
MURFREESBORO – Will Kriesky challenged Jaylen Thompson on the sideline to make a play, and not only did Thompson accept the challenge, he also turned it into a potentially season-changing play.
Moments after that chat, the Riverdale junior snagged a key interception and returned it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Warriors earn a 21-7 victory at Siegel on Thursday evening.
“Play your game and take the game over,” Thompson said about what Kriesky told him before the interception. “That’s all he really told me. They all told me they believe in me. It was just great to make a play.”
At the time, the Warriors had just tied the game after trailing since the early part of the first quarter before Thompson stepped in front of a Siegel receiver to intercept Thomas Santel’s pass to the outside.
“We were talking and I (told Thompson) big-time players make big-time plays and I need something from you,” Kriesky said. “And I challenged him at halftime. I called him out in front of the team at halftime and he responded. And that’s what those types of players do, when a coach calls them out – I wasn’t being negative about it, I was just calling him out – ‘hey, we need you to make a play,’ and that’s what he did. He answered it.”
Thompson added, “It feels good, especially against my old team. I know all (Siegel’s) guys – (they’re) cool off the field, on the field. It just felt good to get the win.”
Riverdale hadn’t even reached the Stars’ 20-yard line until the first play of the fourth quarter, when a face mask penalty on top of a DJ Taylor run put the Warriors into scoring range for the first time. Taylor gave the Warriors their first points on a 15-yard touchdown run with 11:35 remaining.
Siegel gained a first down on the next series before Thompson’s interception put Riverdale in front for good.
Junior Isaiah Verser capped things on a 53-yard touchdown run with 6:08 to play.
Santel found the end zone on the game’s opening possession with a 6-yard run to the front corner of the end zone, but the Stars’ offense faded as they only reached Riverdale’s 30-yard line twice the rest of the way.
One of those was a missed 47-yard field goal that landed short and left of the uprights, and a holding penalty short-circuited the other drive before Santel had a long throw intercepted by junior Ryan Edmiston near the Warrior sideline.
Riverdale held Siegel’s offense to 185 yards, 52 of that coming on the first drive.
“You never want to lose to a team that your kids hang out with, that they go to church with, all that kind of stuff,” Siegel head coach Adam Renshaw said. “Cross-town rivalries, that’s a tough thing. I thought we played really well for three quarters. We needed to execute better offensively, but we just made some key mistakes there in the second half and couldn’t overcome them.”
The Warriors (4-3, 1-2 Region 4-6A) claimed a crucial region victory with the win, as the loser of the game would have needed to win its final two league contests to have any real hope of reaching the 6A playoffs. However, they feel they still have something to offer in the final month of the regular season.
“Look at the three games we lost,” Kriesky said. “We’re in them in the fourth quarter all the way until five minutes to go in all three losses. I’m not making excuses, but we killed ourselves in situations in all three ballgames. Anything could have turned and we’d be sitting in a different situation. But this team is growing up, they don’t quit, and they believe in each other.”
Now, with games against Oakland and Stewarts Creek remaining (and a non-region trip to Class 3A top-ranked East Nashville), the Warriors head into their open date next week with a chance to breathe – and heal.
“We need it more than ever,” Kriesky said. “We’ve got bumps and bruises – nothing major, just need time to get healed up and go.”
Siegel’s final three games come after next week’s open date as the Stars (4-3, 0-3) host Stewarts Creek on Oct. 14 before traveling to Lincoln County and Blackman to close the regular season. They’ll need wins over the Red Hawks and Blaze to entertain playoff hopes.
“The next one’s the most important one, so we’ll get focused on that,” Renshaw said. “We’ve got a lot of great kids. We’ve got some warriors on this football team. The eggs won’t taste very good in the morning, but here in a day or two, our kids are resilient and we’ll go back to work on Stewarts Creek.”