It appeared hope was fading quickly on Matt Daniels’ second attempt at his first win as head coach at Ravenwood.
The Raptors (1-1), who fell in a heartbreaker in their leader’s debut a week earlier to rival Centennial, watched a 10-point lead evaporate in just five minutes of game time. They trailed 35-31 to Siegel (1-1) and had just had a punt blocked – their second punt miscue of the game.
But, out of nowhere came a short, skinny savior who a week earlier only threw one pass, which just so happened to be a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Brian Garcia uncorked an arching throw over the middle to a running Anthony Holmes, who caught the pass in stride and scored a 48-yarder to send the Ravenwood stands into a frenzy.
The ship was righted, and in the end, it was the Raptors who eclipsed the Stars, 45-42.
“You can ask my students, my players, my peers and the faculty that there’s a rare occurrence when I’m speechless, and it was to that point tonight,” an emotional Daniels said. “There were times when things weren’t going well for us … but we just kept fighting back.”
Garcia was the star of the show for the Raptors. The sophomore didn’t even know he was going to see a playing time increase until early in the week, when Daniels decided to go with the hot hand.
He made the right decision, as Garcia connected on 17-of-24 passes for 324 yards, four touchdowns and, most importantly, zero turnovers. He was also the first person to ring the Raptors’ victory bell after the game.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever met a kid with more ice water in his veins,” Daniels said of his quarterback. “He’s a sophomore and undersized, but, man, he can sling the football. I think people will know his name going forward.”
The guy who Garcia spelled under center, senior Nick Stallcup, didn’t hang his head after handing over the reins. He completed both of his passing attempts for 15 yards, rushed for a team-high 56 yards on nine carries and tied a team-high with five catches for 28 yards and a TD.
“We had a good week of practice, and Nick helped me the most,” Garcia said. “How he took things really helped me out, and he was still moving all over the place. It really helped.”
The game started hot and heavy for both offenses, and it looked like they were trying to have a race to 50 points.
Ravenwood jumped to an early lead when Garcia found senior receiver Miller Powell for a 55-yard touchdown on the third play of the game, and Siegel answered with a 51-yard rushing TD of its own.
Powell added his second score in as many drives, a 37-yard reception, just 3 ½ minutes after his first, and just five minutes into the ballgame the score already stood at 14-7.
The hot start, especially from Powell, was essential to the success of the Raptor offense and Garcia. Powell ended with five catches for 163 yards and two scores.
“I’m pretty confident in my receivers to go get the ball, and they did that tonight,” Garcia said. “[Powell] helped me a lot knowing that I could just throw it up there and he would go get it.”
The offenses kept a decent pace over the remainder of the first half, and at the break the Raptors held a slim 24-21 advantage.
Coming out of the locker room, another fire was lit offensively. The teams combined to score on six of the first eight possessions after halftime until finally Ravenwood found footing defensively.
Just after Garcia hit Stallcup to give the home team its final lead of 45-42, senior linebacker Anthony McCarthy (team-high 11 tackles) led the defense to two straight stops to put the game away.
“[Our offense] gave the defense enough confidence at the end to make the stops when we needed to,” Daniels said. “We weren’t making stops, then all of a sudden, we strung two together. That was huge, and the defense knows when the offense gets rolling they can rely on them. They can loosen up and play some football.”
Offensively, Holmes added 10 carries for 25 yards and a pair of touchdowns to go with four catches for 66 yards and another TD. Senior Seth Erickson added eight tackles on defense, and Cole Carteaux and Mason Staufer added seven stops apiece.
Going into Week 3, Daniels would like to see his team tackle with more fundamentals, especially in the run game. The Raptors gave up 403 rushing yards to the Stars – 363 of which went to running back Lelan Wilhoite, who also had four TDs on 35 carries – and next week the powerful Franklin Rebels’ (0-2) rushing attack travels to RHS.
“The biggest thing is it’s such an unbelievably tough balance in high school football to keep our guys healthy and learn tackling,” Daniels said. “Not tackling to the ground in practice obviously shows on the field – we’re coming in high and doing like we do in practice not taking our own guys to the ground. The coaches will have a powwow to talk about how we can better simulate game situations in practice.”