HENDERSONVILLE – Senior Nate Hancock’s game-sealing touchdown from 10 yards out in the fourth quarter lifted Hendersonville to a 23-14 victory over visiting Riverdale on Friday night in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
The victory pushes Hendersonville into the second round of the 6A playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Trailing 14-10 with 11:36 left in the contest, Hendersonville’s Ellis Ellis put the Commandos in great position to respond following a 60-yard kickoff return to the Riverdale 31-yard line after the Warriors claimed their first lead of the contest.
Getting the ball on three straight carries, Hancock rushed for 26 yards before setting up a fourth-and-2 from the Riverdale 2-yard line with just under nine minutes left to go in the game.
Needing the tough yards, Hendersonville handed to its big back, Dalton Jones, who did the rest, scoring his second touchdown of the night and giving Hendersonville back a lead it would not relinquish.
Leading 17-14 following Jones’ touchdown, Hendersonville forced a turnover-on-downs at the Riverdale 43-yard line when Riverdale quarterback Taylor Yancey failed to find his man on a wheel route down the Warrior sideline. The fourth-down stop all but sealed the victory for Hendersonville.
Not playing safe, Hendersonville converted a third-and-7 when Logan Spurrier gut the Warrior defense for 15 yards, sending the Hendersonville crowd into a frenzy.
Following a 13-yard rush from Dalton Jones, Hancock finished off the drive, running in for his first score of the night from 10 yards out to put the nail in the coffin and ending the Warriors’ season.
“That is resilience from our team and a testament to our kids buying in to what we are doing,” Hendersonville coach James Beasley said. “When they took the lead in the fourth quarter, and then our kids drove right back down and scored to retake the lead, I thought that showed a lot of mental toughness.”
The victory marks the first playoff win for Beasley as head coach at Hendersonville. Just like all the coaches that came before him, he was quick to give the praise to his players.
“More importantly, it’s the first playoff win for the players on this team,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s about them and it’s awesome to get them that victory. It’s a special feeling to get playoff wins because they are hard to get.”
Leading 10-7 after the third quarter, Riverdale’s DJ Moyers scored his second touchdown of the night when Yancey found him in the flats for a 2-yard score with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter.
“We just wanted them to respond,” Beasley said of what he told his kids after the Riverdale touchdown. “Bad things have happened to us throughout the season; we’ve played a lot of really good teams this year and we feel like for the most part we’ve been through a lot of those situations so we were prepared for that because of the quality of teams we’ve played this season.”
Scoring 13 consecutive points, Hendersonville sealed the win and moved on to the second round, where state-power Oakland awaits.
“We’ve shown that we are capable of playing well when we are on our game,” Beasley said. “We got a chance to compete and that is what we are going to do.”
The loss for Riverdale is a tough one to swallow as the Warriors now must say goodbye to a handful of seniors that mean a great deal to head coach Will Kriesky.
“This senior class really helped us this year replacing 26 seniors from last year,” he said. “They’ve fought hard, they believed in what we did and the process and all they did was do what we asked them to do. This has been a fun group to coach and the entire process. From the winter through the fall. They are a great group of young men and we are really proud of them.”
A game that could have easily gone the other way, Kriesky says himself, his staff and his team will learn from this, so that in 2019 they hope to be the team advancing to the second round.
“We’ve got to move forward and evaluate where we are,” he said. “We got to get back to the second round. We grew a lot this year with a ton of underclassmen that will be back next year, so we got to get them stronger and better. Too many mistakes cost us against a good first-round opponent.”
Riverdale ends its season at 5-6, while the Commandos improve to 8-3 and travel to Oakland next week.