Two years ago Riverdale traveled to Mt. Juliet for a first-round playoff game and gave the Golden Bears their first loss of the season.
Four turnovers — three fumbles and an interception — stopped the Warriors from a repeat performance on Friday night in a 20-14 loss to Mt. Juliet in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
The interception and one of the two second-half fumbles gave Mt. Juliet short touchdown drives.
“You can’t turn the ball over in the playoffs and expect to win,” Riverdale head coach Will Kriesky said. “Our defense did a great job and we knew it would be a close game. Turnovers were the difference.”
Senior running back Drew Smith led the Warriors (7-4) with on 149 yards on 22 carries. He was tackled for a loss only one time. The rest of the Riverdale offense combined for a net of 3 yards rushing on nine carries.
Smith piled up 115 of his rushing yards in the first half, including Riverdale’s first touchdown on a 42-yard run up the middle with 4:12 remaining in the first quarter. That run and Caleb Moore’s PAT gave the Warriors their only lead of the game at 7-6.
“We expected this game to be a fight,” said Smith, who also had three catches for 21 yards. “But the turnovers … they just really hurt us.”
Mt Juliet (7-4), which will play at Oakland next Friday in the second round, had its go-ahead touchdown set up by at interception at Riverdale’s 18. A fumble midway through the third quarter gave the Golden Bears the ball at the Warriors’ 29
During the pileup to try to recover the fumble, Riverdale senior quarterback Taylor Yancey was injured and did not return to the game. Sophomore Jameson Holcomb took over, leading the offense and nearly led a Riverdale comeback.
In about 17 minutes of game time, Holcomb completed 8-of-11 passes. Holcomb and CJ Johnson hooked up for the game’s final touchdown, a 67-yard pass play with less than one minute remaining in the third quarter.
“I probably should have made that change earlier,” Kriesky said. “(Holcomb) throws the ball really well like that in practice so it was no surprise to see it tonight.”
The Warriors started the second half on its 42 after Johnson’s long kickoff return. That drive ended with a fumble on the Mt. Juliet 36.
Riverdale nearly stopped Mt. Juliet completely in the second half, holding the Golden Bears to 50 yards and three first downs (two by penalty and the other one on a 7-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter).
“I really just talked to the seniors after the game,” Kriesky said. “They are my first senior class. They really bought in to my program and changed the attitude a lot from when I got here.”