Last year when the McIntosh faced the Riverdale, the Chiefs were left with a bitter taste as five turnovers let the Raiders run away with the game as they made a surprise run to the playoffs. What a difference a year makes as the Chiefs look primed for a postseason push after tasting the sweet flavor of victory with a 27-8 win.
The start to the season, just the second time in school history the Chiefs have started 5-0, has energized the fan base, especially with the Riverdale game coinciding with Homecoming.
“What a great night for our football family and our community,” said Coach Lee Belknap, who had several former players contact him this week about the team, including one who is helping lead the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. “It’s just a powerful feeling to have this community behind us for Homecoming week.”
The Chiefs fed off the energy of their fans and dominated from opening kickoff to the final whistle.
“We challenged our guys to come out and represent the uniform of those that came before them,” said Belknap.
Team leaders, like star running back Bradley Ector, weren’t about to let the green and black down.
“Homecoming is the best time of the school year, and we went out there and did what we did in practice all week long to prepare for them,” said Ector. “We came out here and executed and got it done.”
As he does on a weekly basis, Ector made the defense look silly, running for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns, and against the Raiders his offensive line of Jake Ellis, Ryan Siegel, Robert Clarke, Jeffrey Burrell, and Cam Walter was even better than usual.
Ector beamed brighter than the stadium lights talking about his line.
“They had nothing (on us). We were full speed, full throttle. We drove our own bus,” he said. “We got there, we scored, and we put together a ‘W.’”
It took a second for the Chiefs to kick into gear, but once they did, they were off to the races. Riverdale attempted a fake punt on their first series, and, when they were stopped short, it gave the a boost of momentum. On the next play, Dane Kinamon found De’Andre Wade streaking up the sideline uncovered and hit him in stride for a 66-yard touchdown. William Mason’s extra point made it a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
A talented Riverdale team couldn’t seem to get out of their own way at times, racking up penalty after penalty. Backed up by flags, a 3 and out on their second possession set McIntosh up in Raider territory, and they wasted no time making them pay. On the first play, the line blew open a hole off the edge, and Ector cut through and turned on the jets, sprinting the distance for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Another Riverdale 3 and out gave McIntosh the ball at midfield, and they took to the air. Completions to Ector and Wade, combined with a 19-yard Kinamon keeper, set up a 1-yard plunge by Ector for a 21-0 lead.
The next series took a strange turn. After a Calvin Flowers pass deflection and a Kaemon Gooden tackle in the backfield, the Raiders faced a 4th and 14. Their quarterback, Avaun Rucker, tried to scramble for the first down, but gave up short and stepped out of bounds where he was hit late. The flag should have extended the drive in the red zone, but the officials instead called it a dead ball foul, giving McIntosh the ball on a turnover on downs, then enforcing the 15 yards, bringing a lot of questions from even the home crowd.
The Raiders didn’t come away empty handed, tackling Ector in the end zone for a safety on the ensuing possession for a 21-2 halftime score.
Riverdale opened the second half with their best possession of the night, stringing together an 84-yard scoring drive. A sack by Oseme Ojukwu looked like it would end the series, but they went for it on 4th and 18, and Rucker found an open Tremain Moore on a skinny post for a 35-yard touchdown. The two-point attempt was no good for the Raiders’ last points of the night and a 21-8 margin.
The McIntosh defense responded and amped up the pressure, Ethan Ange penetrating on the next series to force an intentional grounding and taking down the quarterback for a sack to force a punt.
They iced the game on their first possession of the fourth quarter. Kinamon converted a 3rd and long, hitting Mathew Allum over the middle to move the chains. Ector did the rest, burning the defense on a 74-yard run, his third touchdown of the night and the final blow.
The game represented a remarkable turnaround from the 2016 edition of the matchup where Riverdale fed off 5 McIntosh turnovers en route to a 23-7 and a surprising trip to the playoffs. This time, it was the Chiefs with their eyes on the postseason and taking advantage of a heap of Raider penalties.
“Every team has the challenge of becoming a mature football team,” said Belknap. “This group has been maturing each week, whether it be how to protect a lead, how to protect the ball, or how to stop the big play on 3rd and long. It’s fun to watch. Our guys are moving along, we’ve just got to keep our foot on the gas.”
The 5-0 record is a good confidence booster, but the team knows all that matters is the 1-0 region mark. It’s a whole new season now if they want to make the playoffs.
“That’s what we talked about. Other than knowing we can play and do some things right, 4-0 means nothing now. Nobody cares about it,” said Belknap. “We talked about it in our pregame devotion. Keep your eyes straight ahead. The most important play is the next play, and the most important game is the next game.”
That next, most important game comes after a bye week when they travel to play Fayette County October 6. The Chiefs will be ready for any challenge.
“There are no breaks in our region, no off weeks,” he said. “We’re going to have to show up every Friday night if we want to extend the season.”
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