RA Rebels Win Thriller Over Briarfield

By Molly Seales

On Friday, September 9, the Riverdale Academy Rebel football team, cheerleaders, and loyal fans made the long drive to Lake Providence, LA, to take on one of their biggest rivals, the Briarfield Rebels. For the team, this game was personal, as Briarfield narrowly defeated them last year in the semifinals. The Rebels wanted revenge, and they got it with a 34-28 road win, giving every Rebel fan something to cheer about.

Head coach Jared Smelser was extremely proud of his team. He said, “Our boys are competitive. They don’t just wear the school’s name on their jerseys-it’s engraved on their hearts. Games like last night show how much these guys play for their community and their school. Briarfield has played the hardest schedule of any team. We knew they were better than their record, plus they were playing at home, so we knew it would be a tough game. I feel like we still need to fix some things, but these guys wanted to win and overcame a lot of missed assignments. Any time you can put the mistakes behind you and get a win on the road against a great team, you know you are a great team, too.” Assistant coach Jensen Spillum had some of the same sentiments. He said, “Beating Briarfield in the fashion that we did felt great. All those stored up emotions from last year’s semifinal game were out on display. Defensively, we were able to put pressure on the quarterback and make some good plays. Offensively, our protection up front has gotten progressively better, and our backfield and receivers were able to string together some solid drives. This is definitely a performance we can build off of and make our case for being a state championship contender.”

With Riverdale up 28-22 and 3:03 left in the 4th quarter, Briarfield managed to punch it in for a touchdown to tie it up at 28-28. As Briarfield attempted the 2-point conversion, junior Hayden Hillman was able to get to the outside and stop Briarfield just short of the end zone, causing a failed conversion and leaving the score tied. The Rebels had 3:00 minutes left to make something happen. Senior James Wagoner laid down on the onside kick, giving the Rebels control of the ball, and we took over on our own 33-yard line. However, two plays later disaster struck as Riverdale fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Briarfield. However, the Rebels didn’t let this get into their heads. They got fired up on defense and forced a Briarfield punt, which resulted in a high snap to the punter that was recovered by Riverdale with good field position. With around 30 seconds left in the game, junior quarterback Ryder Huddleston found junior receiver Kyle Guillory in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Rebels up 34-28. The 2-point conversion failed, but the Rebels had done enough. Briarfield got the ball with around 20 seconds left and got a first down on their first play, and then they called a timeout to stop the clock. On the last play of the game, senior Jace Wilhite recorded his first interception and ran it out of bounds to seal the victory.

On offense, Ryder Huddleston was 5 for 10 in passing for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. Guillory had a reception for a 25-yard touchdown, and Ben Almond had 4 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. Guillory also had 13 carries, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown, while Almond and Huddleston each ran in a touchdown of their own. The Rebel defense also fought hard and stepped up big. Junior Landen Barrett led the charge with 5 tackles (3 TFL,) an assist, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. Guillory was also active on defense with 4 tackles (1 TFL,) an assist, a sack, and a fumble recovery. Huddleston had 4 tackles and an assist with 3 TFL. Freshman Ashton Almond once again proved he was ready for varsity play with 3 tackles (1 TFL,) 1 assist, 1 PBU, and a fumble recovery, while brother Ben had 2 tackles. Hillman had 2 tackles (1 TFL,) and an assist, while Wagoner had 2 tackles and an assist. Wilhite had 2 tackles and the crucial game-ending interception. Tyler Parker had a tackle for a loss, and Kaidyn Williams had a tackle and a fumble recovery.

The Rebels will be at home Friday night for their first district game against the Tensas Chiefs, who come to East Point with a 3-0 record. This will be a tough district game, and we need ALL of our Rebels fans to come out and cheer on our boys! Kickoff is 7:00 p.m. at Marston Stadium. Keep it up boys! We are proud of you!

Photo credit:  Bethany Seales and Leslie Johnson

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