Riverdale nets first playoff berth, experiencing season for the ages

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Riverdale’s Brady Weber hands off to David Rose against Bucyrus. (Photo by Beth Thompson)

Riverdale’s football Falcons are back in the air and flying into never
before seen territory. With their 14-10 win at Bucyrus last week, the
Falcons clinched their first trip to the playoffs according to Harbin
points guru Joe Eitel. Riverdale is in Division VI, Region 22. They’re also in line to set 12 school records.


MOUNT BLANCHARD – Riverdale’s football Falcons are back in the air and flying into never before seen territory. With their 14-10 win at Bucyrus last week, the Falcons clinched their first trip to the playoffs according to Harbin points guru Joe Eitel. Riverdale is in Division VI, Region 22.

“It’s been really special,” said Landon Kessler, Riverdale’s senior wide receiver. “We’ve had a lot of firsts this season. It will be fun to look back and see what we’ve done.”

Kessler isn’t kidding when he says this Riverdale team has experienced some things no other Riverdale team has – not in the near nor distant past. According to head coach Jeremy Kloepfer, these Falcons are in position to rewrite 12 of the program’s 16 all-time offensive records.

Those accomplishments, their 7-2 record and new heights into a postseason berth took even their coach by surprise.

“Everybody told me to be patient,” Kloepfer said, now in his third year at Riverdale. “These kids have risen to the occasion. They’ve met my expectations.

“Give all the credit to the kids.”

A little bit has to go to Kloepfer who claims he always wanted to be the head football coach at Riverdale. That might not seem so unusual if the Falcons hadn’t been 1-39 in the four years prior to Kloepfer’s arrival. Since then they’ve steadily climbed the standings on their way back to respectability.

Riverdale went from 2-8 in Kloepfer’s inaugural season on the sidelines to 5-5 last year and 7-2 with a game left in this regular season.

“It’s been amazing,” said Matt Shark a senior two-way lineman who has been around to experience the lean years as well as the good. “We started out our freshman year not very good. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s really paid off.”

Certainly the Falcons have returned more dividends than the stock market of late.

Now the perennial basement dwellers of the North Central Conference have sewn up no worse than second in the league and guaranteed themselves an 11th game.

“(People) definitely take a second look at us instead of overlooking us like they have in the past,” Kessler said. “I didn’t even play football until Coach Kloepfer came along. I always knew we had the group of guys who could do it.”

The Falcons may have come even farther than most people give them credit for. With six minutes to play, they led undefeated Wynford before turnovers and a blocked point enabled the Royals to escape with a 34-13 win in a game much closer than the final numbers indicate.

Wynford, who has swept the NCC the past three seasons, now going on four, remains unbeaten and is also headed to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.

Many wondered after the near miss if the Falcons would fall quickly like they did last year after starting out 5-1 before losing their final four.

Kloepfer wasn’t among the doubters and pouters. He insists he didn’t come to Riverdale just to win games, but championships.

“I thought Friday night us beating Bucyrus was a championship-type game,” Kloepfer said. “The good that came out of that (Wynford loss) was that last week I got to remind them they took something from somebody and gave it back. And if they get it this time, take it because no one will give it to them.”

The Falcons did take their first win ever over Bucyrus on a 23-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Brady Weber to another sophomore, Rick Duffman, to cap a 72-yard drive with just 3:14 to play.

In his first two seasons, Kloepfer’s teams only passed as an afterthought and pounded the ball over and over again between the tackles. This year Kloepfer put the Falcons’ fortunes largely on the 6-foot-3 Weber’s right arm. Weber has thrown for 1,837 yards and 15 scoring passes in nine weeks.

“It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun throwing the ball around,” Weber said. “I wasn’t even thinking about this year until summer came. Then we started talking about spread offenses and I was looking forward to it.”

Three of Weber’s receivers – Chris Hepperly, Kessler and Duffman – have been among the league leaders all season and make it impossible for opposing defenses to focus on just one Riverdale weapon. To make it even tougher, Weber and offensive lineman-turned-fullback David Rose have developed into a dangerous one-two running threat in the second half of the season.

But while the offense has taken some by surprise, the defense has always been a staple for Kloepfer and the Falcons. Levi Brown, all 5-foot-9 of him, leads the team in tackles with 113.5, a pair of sacks and an interception.

“(Now) we get a lot more respect,” Brown said. “People would be like, ‘Oh, you play on the football team.’”

“Now they’re like, ‘Oh! You’re on the football team!’ They want to come to the games. We love our fans.”

That’s a feeling, the Riverdale faithful say, is mutual.

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