By Molly Seales
You couldn’t have asked any more of them. They lost senior Monroe McCarty to a season ending injury in the October 1st victory vs. Franklin Academy. They regrouped, and they pushed forward. They ran harder-hit harder-fought harder. They were ready to prove themselves on October 15 at senior night. With a little over 2:00 left in the district game vs. WCCA, another senior Jake Messenger went down to a season ending ankle injury. They never gave up and defeated WCCA to clinch the district title. They could have hung their heads. They could have given up. They could have lost hope as they thought about two of their key players being gone, but they didn’t. They got a fire in their eyes that even the strongest critic could not extinguish. Seniors Denver Williams, Ty Jones, Chandler Nettles, Kaden Cason, and Reagan Huddleston wanted a shot at that championship-not only for themselves, but for Jake, Monroe, the coaches, and the rest of the team.
They came out and handily defeated Tensas in the quarterfinal game. That made them want it more. They knew the November 12th game against Briarfield would be a tough one. The Rebels defeated Briarfield early in the season 12-6 in the homecoming game. This time they were the underdog, but you never would have known it when they stepped on the field that night. The fought hard-hit hard-played hard-left everything they had on that football field. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. At the end of regulation, the game was deadlocked 0-0. In overtime, Riverdale got the ball first at the 10-yard line for four downs and were unable to push the ball into the endzone. Briarfield then had their turn for their four downs. It was on their final down that Briarfield’s quarterback fumbled, and their receiver was able to pick up the ball and barely take it into the endzone. That final play gave Briarfield the 6-0 win, denying the Rebels a second straight shot at a championship.
I was able to catch up with a few of the Riverdale coaches to get their final thoughts on an outstanding season. Head coach Jared Smelser said, “It was the gutsy performance you except from our guys and the type of playoff game that you expect. Both team’s defenses came out with a mission. It was an all-out battle that makes football fun. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top. If you told me that the game would end in a 0-0 tie in regulation, I wouldn’t have believed you, but that’s how determined these two teams were to stop each other’s offense. I’ve heard this is the lowest score in 8-man football history. I would have to check the record books to confirm it. I’m extremely proud of my team. I’m sad that it ended this way. I’ll continue to work hard in the off-season to reassess some coaching decisions and look for innovative ways to improve on some things.”
Assistant coaches Jensen Spillum and Cody Hillman expressed similar thoughts. Coach Cody told me, “The Briarfield loss is a tough one. It’s going to take a while to get over. In no way does that mean I am disappointed in this team. I couldn’t be prouder of those boys. Not one time did they give up or quit fighting. They gave every ounce of fight they had in them. The best team doesn’t always win the game, and I believe that to be the case here. Luck was on Briarfield’s side at the end of the game, period. Go Rebels!” Coach Jensen said, “This team had to fight through a lot of adversity, and many times they were counted out. Losing two key seniors in Jake Messenger and Monroe McCarty was quite the setback, but we had a lot of young guys step up when their names were called. This season showed that Riverdale Academy features a team and not just a few players. Every single young man contributed all the way from JV and scout team, to starters on Friday nights. I will always beam with pride when talking about the 2021 Riverdale Rebels. I think we have a great nucleus of talent and skill coming back next season, and I cannot wait to get to work in the offseason with them. Go Rebels!”
On behalf of the cheerleaders, faculty, staff, and fans, I would like to say thank you to the 2021 football team for giving us such a wonderful ride and showing us, as well as so many others, that true Rebels never give up. Your determination has been an inspiration to us all. To our seniors-Denver, Ty, Chandler, Kaden, Jake, Monroe, and Reagan-thank you for your leadership, both on and off of the field. You are all amazing and will never be replaced under the Friday night lights. We wish you all the best of luck in the future! Thanks for the memories! Until next year….once a Rebel, always a Rebel!
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