Cinderella Season Gives Riverdale Academy State Runner Up Trophy

By Molly Seales with photos by Ryan Prosperie

Over the past few years, the Riverdale Rebels have faced much adversity when it comes to football. Despite many head coach changes and not very many constants in their football seasons, the boys kept playing their hardest and never game up, eventually making it to the playoffs last year and the state championship game this year.

One of the only constants these boys have had over the years, Mr. Winn Almond, a 1990 Riverdale graduate and father of senior Witt Almond, told me, “I have been involved with many of these young men since pee wee football. I have watched them mature over these years, and I could not be prouder of them and the effort they put forth this year.  The love this team had for one another and the unity displayed really humbled me and brought RA much success.  These guys fought for each other and for Riverdale, and I am grateful for that effort.  We are fortunate to have Coach Smelser and Coach Spillum coming back next year to make another run.  We have many returning starters, and these coaches are some good folks.  I also feel that RA is as unified as a school family as we have been in a long time.  Our staff is top notch, and I pray that bodes well for the future.  I thank God for all the success this year! Also, thanks to all who worked, cooked, or provided for this team.  You all made it a season to remember!”

Before the start of football this year nobody knew what this year was going to end up looking like, not knowing who their coach was going to be or how the Coronavirus was going to affect their season. Soon there was talk of Coach Jared Smelser, who is loved by all the players, students, and fans of Riverdale, coming back as head coach of the football team.  With this news, things started to look better for the Rebels, as they knew that someone was coming back who understood what it meant to be a Riverdale Rebel.  Still, with last years seniors Dayton Brown, Adam Bryant, Tylar Bare, Jackson Riggs, and Justin Oliver gone, we didn’t know how the season was going to go since they all played big leadership roles and made up a big part of the team.  Then last summer we got word that Ty Jones and brothers Paul and Jake Messenger were coming back to Riverdale from St. Mary’s. With them back and talking their cousin Parker Almond into playing, things were looking up for the Rebels 2020 football season. 

The Rebels started practicing hard all summer and put in many after school hours to becomes successful. Though they faced more adversity this year, having to play many scheduled home games in Mississippi, they still never gave up.  

About halfway through the season, Coach Jensen Spillum joined the coaching staff and began his journey as a Rebel.  This team continued fighting and with the help of their coaches, fans, and cheerleaders they eventually led themselves to play in the 2A MAIS state championship game.

This years’ seniors Witt Almond, Parker Almond, Brennan Edie, and Paul Messenger stepped up to take on the leadership roles of the team.  They showed us what it means to be a leader, not only on the field while playing. but also off of it whenever they thought nobody was watching. 

I asked all of the senior boys their thoughts on their final season in a Riverdale football uniform. Witt Almond said, “It was without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had playing football.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Parker Almond responded, “This year has been a football year that I will remember for the rest of my life.  The memories that I have made with my teammates and coaches will always be dear to me.  I have had so much fun this year playing football.  I would like to thank all the fans, my teammates, and my coaches for a great season.”

Brennan Edie said, “Overall I got the best senior season I could ask for.  We made it as far as we possibly could, and we put our best foot forward.  With coach Jared coming back and having Paul, Jake, Ty, and Parker, along with coach Jensen, we made the best of our season.  It felt like our team was complete, and we were as close as a team could be.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to be around and play with.  They were more than just teammates and coaches to me.  They were family.”

Senior Paul Messenger said, “Coming back to Riverdale I was excited and nervous, but as soon as I got here everyone accepted me with open arms.  I am truly blessed to be in the position I’m in; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”  He went on to say, “My thoughts on the season met my expectations. All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a kid was to play for a state championship.  I just want to thank everyone for helping me and my family with the transition of moving schools and also thanks to all of the great fans, coaches, and teammates.”

All year the Riverdale fans, and cheerleaders showed up and showed out for this team. The cheerleaders always cheered their hearts out, and the fans (especially a select few) always loved singing the fight song even if it was for one last time of the season at the buzzer in the championship game.

In the loss to Manchester, Parker Almond had 1 touchdown, Ty Jones had 1 touchdown, and Jake Messenger had 2 touchdowns.  Even though the Rebels fell short on the scoreboard in the championship game with a final score of 58 to 26, they are still champions in their Riverdale family’s heart.

This team showed up at every game and played their hearts out every second until the clock ran out, showing everyone what it meant to have the heart of a champion and be a true Riverdale Rebel, making their Riverdale family proud. “Rebels on 3; family on 6,” is what is said at the end of every football game huddle. Thursday night after the championship game, junior Denver Williams said, “One last time.” The Rebels were heard loud and proud, as they said their final, “Rebels on 3; family on 6,” of the year. With a team loaded with talented underclassmen, look for the Rebels back in the championship game in the very near future. We are more than just a school-we are family. Once a Rebel always a Rebel!