Riverdale junior Mariko Odom had a game of biblical proportion Friday night.
But like most good stories in the Bible, Odom and his Warrior teammates had to make a long, trying journey to their destination. After a slow start against the host Brighton Cardinals, Odom made a momentum boosting play with a 55-yard interception return to the end zone.
Odom also made two big runs on offense leading to a 42-19 Riverdale victory.
“He giveth and the taketh away,” Riverdale Head Coach Ron Aydelott said. “He’s a great kid.”
Last year the Cardinals made the trip to Murfreesboro to play the powerhouse Warriors. The 2012 season kicked off with Riverdale making the three-hour drive to Tipton County.
“We came out slow,” Odom acknowledged. “It’s the first game, so we didn’t too well. We had a long trip here. But once we got into the grove, we started to do things right.
“It’s a long bus ride,” he added. “We got of out school early. We were cramped up on that bus. It wasn’t great. We got out and loosen up a little bit. Once we got going, we were all right.”
The Cardinals were doing thing right at first recovering a kickoff and driving the ball deep into Riverdale territory. But a missed 25-yard field goal kept the contest scoreless in the first quarter.
Later in the period, Riverdale got on the scoreboard with a double hand-off play leading to a big run. The score was 7-0 in favor of the Warriors.
As the first quarter near a conclusion, Odom finally got his legs underneath him by jumping a pass route for an interception.
“After that pick-six, everybody go into the game,” he noted. “Excitement came out from that.”
Odom’s play made it 14-0 at the first quarter buzzer. Trailing by two scores the Cardinals mounted a drive lead by the running of Antonio Dickerson, passing of Brady Stewart and hand of receiver Artez Harris.
At the beginning of the drive, Dickerson caught a short pass and need to avoid several Riverdale tacklers to make a first down. The senior running back juked one Warrior out of bounds. He side-stepped another defender and ducked a couple more would-be tacklers for a 35-yard gain.
Cardinal Bryant Conner contributed on the drive catching a bullet pass from Stewart to pick up 28 yards. Another Conner reception set up Brighton’s first touchdown of 2012.
Stewart dropped back and aired the ball toward the pylon. Harris was able to make a diving catch to make the score 14-6.
“It’s all about conditioning,” Harris noted. “We know we’re a better team than last year. We had a few mistakes. We’re going to go to practice and we’re going to work hard and learn from our mistakes.”
Brighton mistakes lead to a big third quarter for Riverdale. The Warriors transformed a 14-6 halftime score into a 35-12 advantage after three quarters.
Another Riverdale interception set up an Odom 16-yard TD scramper. Moments later the Warriors made another pick leading to another touchdown run.
Trailing 28-6, the Cardinals had an answer with Dickerson. The senior danced his way through the line of scrimmage and broke loose into the secondary for a 36-yard TD.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Odom took a handoff and ran straight up the field for a 58-yard score.
Riverdale entered he fourth quarter ahead 35-12. Throughout the night the Cardinals missed on scoring chances that might have kept the score closer.
Another missed opportunity occurred on fourth and goal. Brighton handed the ball back to Riverdale on downs.
On the Warriors first play from their own 4-yard line, Odom’s number was called again.
“The line got the hole wide open,” the junior speedster recalled. “And once I got pass the line, I knew I was in the end zone, nobody was ahead of me. All I had to do was keep my stride. I just want to think my line for doing their job tonight.”
The 96-yard TD made the score 42-12 with slightly more than 6 minutes remaining. Despite the tally, the Cardinals were not giving up.
“We just tried out best,” Harris said. “We knew it was going to be a battle once we got out here. We tried to keep our heads up, just kept pushing. The big thing is, I saw my teammates not let up. I like that. I’m going to do my best to have senior leadership and keep pushing them.”
All night Harris seemed to catch every pass thrown his way. The final pass he caught in the game was a fade route in the corner of the end zone from 7-yards out.
“They do a great job,” Aydelott said. “We are fortunate to get out of here like we did. No question.
“I thought our defense had a big hand in how many points we scored,” he continued. “We picked one for six and we had two more (interceptions) that set up for two more (touchdowns). Offensively we weren’t real sharp. Defensively we were better at the beginning and sort of wore down a little bit. We have some things we have to fix.”