By Molly Seales with photos by Ryan Prosperie
The journey was long. The stakes were higher than they had been all season. Win and advance to the Class 2A Championship Game, or lose and go home. The Riverdale Rebels made that long journey, knew how high the stakes were, and won to advance. On Friday, November 13, the Rebels entered the football stadium at Delta Academy in Marks, Mississippi and were greeted with music from the hit movie The Purge and signs reading, “Doomsday for the Rebels” but at the end of the night there was a doomsday, but it was not for Riverdale! In an electric atmosphere and a huge crowd of fans who made the 5 hour journey to Marks, the Rebels showed up and showed out, beating Delta Academy by a score of 30-14.
Head Coach Jared Smelser had this to say about the game, “First let’s talk about this team. Every day, every practice, every game these young men go out and give everything they have for their teammates, family, friends, and school. They are an amazing group of guys. There is no doubt that Delta Academy is a great team with great athletes. They matched up well against us. Coach Tim Melton is a great coach and coaches the right way. We did a lot of things right and capitalized on certain situations. Our linemen did a superb job of opening holes for our running backs. Chandler Nettles, Denver Williams, and Kaden Cason have been great at creating space for the offense at the line. Our receivers have been doing a great job blocking down field and catching the ball in traffic. This is only the second time we’ve been to the championship game. We play a physical and tough Manchester Academy team. Coach Dendy is a legend and has his team in the championship again. We need to match their physicality and intensity. Our guys are ready. This is why you play the game. I’m honored to be a Rebel.”
The Rebel offensive faced a tough defense from Delta. Senior quarterback Witt Almond was 7 for 12 in passing for 85 yards and 2 unfortunate interceptions. Witt also had 5 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. Paul Messenger had 17 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown. Jake Messenger had 8 carries for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ty “Bones” Jones had one reception for 10 yards, and Ben Almond had one reception for 13 yards. Parker Almond had 3 receptions for 35 yards, and Jake Messenger had 2 receptions for 27 yards. Total yardage for the night was 370 and 4 touchdowns.
The Rebel defense was once again well prepared and ready to face Delta. All four senior boys did their part on defense, proving they were not ready for their season to end. Witt Almond had 1 assist, Paul Messenger had 1 solo tackle and 1 assist, Parker Almond had 3 solo tackles, 3 assists, and 1 PBU, while Brennan Edie rounded out the senior defense with 1 solo tackle, 1 ½ sacks (2 TFL) and 1 PBU. Junior Jake Messenger stepped up big on defense with 3 solo tackles, 7 assists, 1 ½ sacks (2 TFL,) 1 PBU, and 1 interception, while his cousin, junior Ty “Bones” Jones, had 3 solo tackles, 3 assists (1 TFL,) and 1 fumble recovery. Junior Denver Williams had a solo tackle and an assist (TFL,) while Kaden Cason rounded out the junior defense with 1 assist. Sophomore Ben Almond, who has been playing some of his best defense of the season, had 1 solo tackle, 2 assists, and 3 PBU. Freshman Kyle Guillory had an assist, while freshman Ryder Huddleston came up big again with 1 solo tackle, 3 assists (2 TFL,) and one forced fumble.
The win secured Riverdale a place in the 2A State Championship game against the defending state champions the Manchester Mavericks on Thursday, November 19, at 3:00 p.m. at Jackson Academy in Jackson Mississippi. There will be no school at Riverdale on that day so teachers and students can attend the game. If you attend, wear black as we “black out” the stands for our Rebels. If you can’t attend, you can follow the game on Journal Sports. Let’s go Riverdale! We believe!
Editor’s Note: The Journal will provide live audio of the game. To listen, go to the menu bar on any Journal article and click “Listen Rebels.” The stream will be active about 15 minutes before kickoff.
Also, everyone at the school was talking about a congratulatory note sent by LSU Head Coach O. He wished the Rebels good luck in the championship game.