"Losing is never a good thing, but you hope if you do lose something good can come out of it," said 12th-year Bears head coach Steve DeVoursney, whose team tumbled from No. 2 in the state's two largest pools to No. 9 in one and No. 10 in the other. "We had a lot of kids who had something to say after the game and challenged some of their teammates."
We'll see if words become action when the team hits the field Friday in an all-time series the Bears lead 20-3, which includes wins in the last nine games and 11 of the last 12 meetings dating back to 1987. Of course the series is resuming after a five-year hiatus. The last two times they met Griffin delivered victories of 49-28 at Tara Stadium in 2006 and 49-17 at Memorial Stadium in 2007.
History, however, is likely to play little or no part in the outcome this year.
"Their coach is doing a good job of changing the program around," DeVoursney said of second-year Raiders head coach Olten Downs. "They went from 2-8 the year before he got there to double this wins, 4-6, the next year and they are 4-1 already this year and likely to improve. They were ranked (earlier this season) for the first time since 2005 and have a real good chance of making the playoffs, so he has done a heck of a job there of turning the program around and getting the kids believing."
To top it off, the Raiders have plenty of talent.
"They have a really good football team," added DeVoursney. "So it's going to be a really big test for us."
Riverdale opened the season with consecutive victories against North Clayton 21-0, Drew 21-14 and Grady 28-14 before taking one on the chin against Dutchtown 38-0. The Raiders responded by whipping Eagle's Landing 52-36 last week on the road.
The tale of the tape for Griffin is similar. The Bears opened the season with wins against Dutchtown 42-16, Northgate 35-6, Jonesboro 34-33 and Woodland-Stockbridge 52-20 before suffering last week's loss on a 27-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.
Perhaps the most intriguing match up between the Bears and the Raiders will take place when Griffin's spread offense (33.6 ppg) clashes with Riverdale's defense (20 ppg).
"They play really good defense," DeVoursney said of the Raiders 4-4 defense. "Hopefully we can pick it up on offense and score some more points this week."
On the other side of the ball, Griffin (18 ppg) will try to stop a multiple Riverdale offense averaging far less than the team's 24 ppg average.
"They have returned a kick for a score in every game except the game they lost," said DeVoursney. "So they are very dangerous on kick returns. We will have to play very disciplined, because they have two guys — who have each returned multiple kicks for touchdowns — with a lot of speed."
DeVoursney and his staff are also counting on the Bears defense to step it up this week.
"Hopefully on defense we can get some more three and outs and get the ball back for our offense," said DeVoursney.
Griffin, idle next week, continues its season with games Oct. 19 at home against North Clayton, Oct. 26 at Upson-Lee and Nov. 2 against Spalding before a week No. 10 crossover game Nov. 9 for the right to advance to state if the Bears are a top-four subregion seed or to end the season if they are not.
The playoffs will pit No. 1 seeds against No. 4 seeds and No. 2 seeds against No. 3 seeds.
"I wish we would have voted to let No. 1's play for the region championship," said DeVoursney, whose team could potentially finish a No. 1 seed in the subregion, win the crossover playoff game and still lose out on a tiebreaker if Stockbridge wins the other subregion and wins a crossover playoff game.
Region 4-AAAA Standings
This Week's Games
Griffin at Riverdale
Spalding at Upson-Lee
Stockbridge at E. Landing
Dutchtown at Locust Grove
Jonesboro at North Clayton
Last Week's Games
Stockbridge 17, Griffin 14
Dutchtown 24, Spalding 21
Riverdale 52, E. Landing 36
Jonesboro 34, Woodland-Stock. 20
Locust Grove 19, North Clayton 12