After an impressive October, the Ravenwood football team seems primed for a noteworthy November.
Displaying their own brand of “exotic smashmouth” on Friday night, the top-seeded Raptors ran past La Vergne 44-14 in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Jordan Smith rushed for 109 yards and scored two touchdowns for Ravenwood (9-2), which will host region rival Independence next week.
“Our main goal is to get to Cookeville,” said Smith. “And we’re just going to keep playing Raptor football each week.”
Ravenwood closed the regular season on a four-game winning streak, including an impressive 3-0 run through October that was capped by last week’s 22-13 win over Independence in the pouring rain.
“All in all, I do think we’re playing our best football right now,” said first-year head coach Matt Daniels. “After the loss to Centennial (on Sept. 22), we said, ‘Guys, this is okay. If we can bounce back, and start peaking in November, we’re going to be just fine.’”
The Raptors, the Region 6-6A champs, amassed 288 rushing yards and mixed that together with several explosive plays from their passing game during the lopsided win against fourth-seeded La Vergne (4-7).
Quarterback Brian Garcia completed 12-of-20 passes for 206 yards, including a five-yard touchdown pass to Parker Nash and a 52-yard TD pass to Miller Powell.
Although Ravenwood missed out on a couple of scoring opportunities in the second quarter — when two consecutive drives ended with fumbles inside the red zone — the Raptors put those mistakes behind them during the third quarter while reeling off 23 unanswered points to build a 44-7 lead.
“This is a brand-new offense that didn’t get installed until the end of June,” said Daniels. “So, I can’t say enough about the offensive staff and about the kids for their total buy-in. They’ve been working hard every day. We’re going to have our hiccups here or there, but it’s been awesome year for them.”
The Ravenwood defense? Well, that group was awfully good, too.
After surrendering an early touchdown to La Vergne, the Raptors clamped down, as Anthony McCarthy, Reagan Carlson, Brian Rice and many of their talented teammates continuously found their way into the backfield. For the game, Ravenwood’s defense compiled 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and forced La Vergne into seven punts.
“I’m really proud of how our defense has come along in the second half of the year,” said Daniels. “We’re really starting to buckle down, and this is a perfect time of year to do that.”
Leading 21-7 at the half, Ravenwood took control in the third quarter, scoring three touchdowns and adding a safety to build a 44-7 lead. All three touchdowns came on the ground, with Smith scoring first on a 1-yard run with 8:00 left in the quarter, Anthony Holmes adding a 15-yard touchdown run at the 5:12 mark, and Nick Stallcup capping the flurry with a 30-yard score with 47 seconds remaining in the quarter.
“We’ve found a little bit of a power running game over the past 3-4 weeks,” said Daniels, “and guys are refreshed (after a light practice schedule during their bye week).”
Ravenwood jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, moving 50 yards in five plays on its second possession of the game. Garcia capped the drive by hooking up with Nash on 5-yard touchdown pass with 7:27 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by Garcia’s 29-yard run that moved the ball to the five-yard line.
Ravenwood owned the 7-0 lead for only 17 seconds. On the first play of the ensuing drive, La Vergne’s Josh Lewis broke loose down the sideline for an 75-yard touchdown run, and Sebastian Carapia’s extra-point tied the game at 7-7.
But Ravenwood answered right back with the 52-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to Powell, and Sam French added the extra-point to give Ravenwood a 14-7 lead with 5:18 left in the second quarter.
The Raptors capitalized on favorable field position on their final drive of the half, putting together a six-play, 36-yard scoring march. Smith’s one-yard run capped the drive, and French’s extra-point extended the Ravenwood lead to 21-7 at the half.
It didn’t take long for Daniels to start looking ahead to next week. He knows the fans are, too.
“I just heard that we are matching up with Indy again, with them coming here again,” he said moments after Friday’s game. “It was a little bit more of a defensive battle last time than some people expected because of the weather. I think both sides are hoping for clear skies (this time). We’re going to be ready to play, and I know Indy will be, too. I am sure this is a matchup that people are looking forward to.”