Little Rebels Win Riverdale’s First Swamp Bowl Championship

By Molly Seales

On Saturday, October 23, the Little Rebels made the long trip to Franklin Academy for the annual Swamp Bowl tournament.  Things did not look good for the Little Rebels, as they had won no games in the regular season and came in a huge underdog as the bottom seed in the tournament. However, 6th graders Jax Hearold, Jackson Hillman, Kaden McNeely, Kane Milner-Dortlon, and Ayden Moseley, who were playing in their last Little Rebel game, showed they had some unfinished business.  Last year, the Little Rebels brought home the runner-up Swamp Bowl trophy, and the team was hungry for more.

In their first game, they took on the Claiborne Academy Rebels. The Little Rebels came out with a sheer look of determination on their faces, and proved they were not done yet.  Jackson Hillman scored 2 touchdowns, while quarterback Jax Hearold ran the ball in for an extra point.  The Little Rebel defense dug deep and hit hard, holding Claiborne scoreless and winning the game 13-0, somewhat avenging the varsity Rebels questionable loss at Claiborne a couple of weeks before.  This set the team up to play in the championship game at 3:00 against Franklin Academy, who had beaten them twice earlier in the year.

The Franklin Cougars drew first blood, scoring a touchdown.  However, they were unable to connect on the extra points, which left them with a 6-0 lead that they held onto leading into the 4th quarter. With only a six-minute quarter with mostly a running clock, the Little Rebels knew they had to act fast if they wanted a chance to win.  With time running down and the Cougars lined up with the ball on around the 50-yard line, the Little Rebels sprung into action.  Kaden McNeely intercepted a Cougar pass right at the 50-yard line and ran it back to the Rebel 40, where he was brought down by a host of Cougars. This was the spark they needed. With 4:55 left in the game, lefty quarterback Jax Hearold connected with McNeely on a bomb from around the 35-yard line that McNeely ran into the end zone for a Riverdale touchdown, tying the score 6-6. On the next play of the game, Hearold again found McNeely in the end zone for a smooth pass for the 2-point conversion, putting the Little Rebels up 8-6.  Now it was up to the defense to hold the Cougars, which had been a daunting task all day. The Cougars went into desperation mode and made a couple of mistakes that resulted in penalties.  With 1:17 left in the game, McNeely read a pass and speedily ran to intercept his second ball of the game. This time, however, there was no stopping him as he ran it in for around a 20-yard touchdown, giving the Little Rebels a 14-6 lead.

As the last seconds ticked off the clock, pandemonium ensued on the visitors’ side, as the Little Rebels upset and stunned the #1 seeded Cougars. For the first time in history, the Little Rebels were bringing the gold Swamp Bowl trophy home to East Point! We are so proud of this team and the coaching staff that consisted of head coach Brandon “Jumbo” Hillman and assistants Silas Guidry, Jason Bell, and Taylor Yount. Congratulations on a great finish!

The Little Rebels put up some good offensive yardage on the day.  Jackson Hillman had 96 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns, while Kaden McNeely had 32 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards, with one touchdown off a reception, one off an interception, and a 2-point conversion. Kane Milner-Dortlon had 41 rushing yards, while his little brother Karson Milner-Dortlon had 19 rushing yards. Quarterback Jax Hearold had 8 rushing yards and an extra point, along with being 6 for 8 in passing for 58 passing yards and a touchdown.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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