Donte Jackson didn’t take long to make an impression on Brett Bonnaffons when Bonnaffons took over the Riverdale job last season.
An assistant coach popped in a tape of Jackson, and Bonnaffons was in awe right away.
“I started calling college coaches right and told them they need to come check out No. 1,” Bonnaffons recalled.
Jackson, Riverdale’s do-it-all senior, showed just what all the hype was about and why he is one of the state’s most sought-after recruits Thursday night.
He scored two touchdowns, had a career-high three interceptions and a pass breakup to lead Riverdale to a 28-7 victory over Grace King at Yenni Stadium.
“He can make any play you ask him to make,” said Bonnaffons. “Any time he touches the ball, he can take it the distance.”
It was the kind of night that showed just why college coaches will have to decide which side of the ball to play him on. He has 37 scholarship offers, including every SEC school except Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn. Most want him to play on defense though and help on special teams.
“My recruiting is going well, but I am just trying to focus on my high school season,” Jackson said.
Jackson rushed five times for 89 yards and caught one pass for 59 yards.
His first interception came on Grace King’s opening possession.
Then on offense, he showed off the blazing speed that helped him run the state’s fastest time on his way to capturing the Class 4A state title in the 100 and 200 meters at the state track meet.
His first touchdown came early in the second half when he darted 56 yards for a score.
That touchdown was sandwiched between a 12-yard touchdown pass from Christian Smith to Tedric White in the first quarter and 1 63-yard run by Darius Bovie midway through the second.
Grace King had several chances to score in the first half. They had a pair of dropped passes on what should have been touchdowns.
Their best chance came in the first quarter when they drove to the Riverdale 3-yard line.
But the Fighting Irish fumbled. They also drove had a drive to stall with missed field goal.
Six plays later, Riverdale cashed in when Jackson took a pass from Christian Smith and sprinted 59 yards for a score, leaning as he crossed the goal line as if he was running through the tape at a track meet.
“The speed comes from just a lot of hard work in the offseason,” Jackson said. “The offseason is our in season. I know speed is my bread and butter so I have to work hard at it and try to keep that up.”
But this wasn’t a one-man show.
Bovie finished with 154 yards on 12 carries.
“He would have been our starting receiver and I had to move him to running back because we had someone hurt,” said Bonnaffons. “He is doing a heck of a job. That’s tow straight 100 yard games for him. He is making plays when we need him to.”
Jeremy Virgil had an interception for the Fighting Irish.
Greg Glass stripped the ball from Riverdale David Compton and raced 35 yards to the 11-yard line to set up Grace King’s only score.
Anthony Marino lunged in from a yard out with 5:57 left to help the Irish avoid the shutout.
Marino completed 9 of 26 passes for 100 yards for the Irish (1-2).
Four of those completions went to Leronte Butler, who had 44 yards receiving.
“It just didn’t happen for us tonight,” said first-year Grace King coach Stuart Bott. “We are a young team and we have to learn how to overcome adversity. We get our shots in the red zone and we have to stick it in. We just haven’t gotten there yet.”
Riverdale (2-1) bounced back after losing to Newman 56-33 last week.
“It’s a win at the end of the day,” said Jackson. “But I can’t say it’s a win we should be satisfied with because we can play way better.
“We have to come out hard every week.”