SMYRNA -- Offense sells tickets, defense wins football games and Riverdale’s 17-3 victory at Smyrna Friday night was absolute proof of that very statement.
Coming into this county clash of undefeated teams, region implications were not present, but the bragging rights were abundant. Looking to build toward the postseason, each program felt they had something to prove in game that was nothing short of a real southern head-knocker.
Smyrna was the first to strike as a blocked punt by Jaiden Jones landed the Dogs at the Riverdale 10-yard line on their opening offensive possession.
This is where everyone got their first look at the mighty Warrior defense. Leashing the Bulldog offense with a fast and physical approach, Riverdale forced Smyrna to settle for a 27-yard Trace Petrelli field goal.
As the clock continued to tick through the first half, both defenses laid the leather as hard hits and plays for lost yardage became the norm. With Smyrna threatening to score late in the second quarter, the Warrior defense again rose to the occasion.
A diving interception by Brayden Woodruff provided Riverdale with one more chance to score in the opening half.
Beginning at its own 15-yard line, Riverdale quarterback Jameson Holcomb orchestrated a drive that culminated with a 40-yard touchdown strike to Seed Coleman at the 1:14 mark of the second quarter.
Having held Smyrna to less than 50 yards of total offense in the first half, that 7-3 lead was looking large.
The second half opened with Smyrna going three-and-out on its first possession. Taking over at its own 43-yard line, Riverdale struck with a big play once again and created what looked like an insurmountable lead.
Biding his time in the pocket, Holcomb again found Coleman with a downfield toss that yielded a 56-yard trip to the end zone at the 8:14 mark of the third quarter.
“I’m really proud of our defensive effort against one of our county rivals,” Riverdale head coach Will Kriesky said. “They did what we coached them to do and really stepped up to the challenge. We know Smyrna has a good team and this was a test for us. Now we have to not be satisfied and continue to build off this one.”
There was plenty of time left, but considering the dominant Riverdale defense, getting two scores looked awfully tough.
The rest of the contest saw many more tough tackles and bone-jarring hits, but only a 30-yard fourth quarter field goal by Riverdale’s Khalil Arman changed the scoreboard.
Players like Alexander Mitchell, Caleb Herring, Elijah Herring and Woodruff proved the “fear the spear” statement was real as they held Smyrna to a meager 85 yards of total offense and had three interceptions.
For Smyrna, all was not lost as a big night on defense should not be tarnished by two big scoring plays.
“We played hard against a very good Riverdale team," Smyrna coach Matt Williams said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game, and I am proud of our kids for their effort.”