The Ravenwood Raptors are heading back to the state semifinals—and once again at the expense of their crosstown rivals.
For the second year in a row, the Raptors avenged a regular season loss to the Brentwood Bruins with a dominant 34-6 win in their Region 6A championships Friday evening at James C. Parker Stadium on Brentwood High School campus.
Senior quarterback Brian Garcia proved menacing in the air on and on the ground, throwing for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns while also running in for a score.
Jake Briningstool hauled in two touchdown passes and racking up 110 receiving yards as part of a Raptors offense which amassed 18 first downs and 343 yards.
“We always made it a goal to return here to Brentwood and beat a team we really should’ve had earlier this season,” Ravenwood assistant coach Matt Mercy told Home Page, referring to the Raptors’ Week 5 loss to their crosstown rivals. “They always have a good game plan and they always come prepared. You cannot take for granted any inch you get against this great Brentwood team.”
Ravenwood (12-1) suffered its lone loss of the season came at the hands of Brentwood just over two months ago, dropping a 25-14 heartbreaker on a night where they led at the half before allowing 16 unanswered points in the second half.
The Raptors’ defense has been next level ever since then, particularly in the postseason where they held opponents scoreless through nearly 10 full quarters of play.
The Raptors offense didn’t take long to get going, scoring on its second possession of the game. Garcia connected with Briningstool on a 16-yard strike for the first of two times on the night.
Ravenwood’s stellar defensive unit worked its magic, as Walker Merrill saw a first down and a nice Bruins drive fall by the wayside after coughing up the rock, with Garrett Moorman recovering the loose ball at midfield.
It was the first of two consecutive possessions in which Ravenwood would force a turnover—after the Bruins offense had committed just 10 all season—and converting into 10 points. Luke Akers nailed a 40-yard field goal in the rain to give the Raptors a 10-0 lead which would expand by seven just two minutes later.
Another Brentwood drive ended in a fumble, this time with Cade Granzow (7-13, 85 yards) getting stripped after a first down, with Jordan Smith—a key contributor to the Raptors’ defensive upgrade in recent weeks upon returning from injury—coming up with the ball at Ravenwood’s 37 yard line.
It was all the room that Garcia and Briningstool needed, this time connecting on a 63-yard catch and dash to give Ravenwood a commanding 17-0 lead after one.
“We just wanted to come in here and show them our real team," noted Briningstool, a 6’6” junior who is regarded as the state’s top prospect among the Class of 2021. "The one that showed up last time wasn’t us.”
The true fighting mettle of the 5’10”, 160-pound Garcia was on full display in the Raptors final score of the first half.
The uncommitted senior leader scrambled for 25 yards on fourth and 14 to keep alive an eventual 10 play drive he would wrap after diving into the end zone on an 8-yard quarterback keeper, dragging in two Bruins defenders along the way.
“I saw the down in distance and thought to myself, ‘That’s a long way to run for that first down,'” Garcia told Home Page. “I got some blocks downfield and got the first down. It was a good feeling. So too was getting that score."
As if fighting for their playoff lives as well as hometown pride, the Bruins found inspiration from another cause.
An attempted scramble by Granzow saw him wrapped up at midfield by nationally-scouted senior two-way starter Reggie Grimes II, with the collision leaving Granzow in excruciating pain in landing on his leg the wrong way.
Davis White (12-19, 102 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.) was forced into the quarterback slot, anchoring an 80-yard drive spanning 5:57 which was capped by a 11 yard pass to Aaron Walter.
“I just wanted to help the team,” White said of jumping in at a moment’s notice. “We were down, literally had nothing to lose. I got my team’s back, they got my back. We had a good drive there.”
The score put the Bruins on the board and ended the Raptors’ defense just 0:16 shy of 10 straight quarters without a score, but still with a 24-6 halftime lead. It’s as close as Brentwood would get on the night, though with hope of rallying after stuffing Ravenwood on fourth and short.
The momentum swing didn’t last long, as a long pass sailed into the awaiting hands of defensive back Ben Severance (5 tackles, 1 interception).
“We’re playing our best football right now, we’re firing on all cylinders,” Severance told Home Page. “It was frustrating to be (0:16) away from pitching another shutout, but it felt good to shut them down the way we did. Once we turned the ball over (on downs), we were determined on defense to get it back.
“I saw the ball in the air and pulled it down. It was my fourth interception, which was my season goal. Tonight’s goal was beating this Brentwood team.”
An exclamation point was added midway through the fourth quarter, when Garcia racked up his third touchdown pass of the night. A 13-yard catch and dash by Shane Craig gave Ravenwood a commanding 34-6 lead—and confirmation of Brentwood having to end an otherwise memorable season.
“What a journey,” Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford told Home Page of his team’s regular season title win and advancing this far into the postseason.
“We had a lot of tough games that helped us get here. Look at (Friday’s playoff games), four teams still playing in the postseason that we faced earlier this season. What an accomplishment for our guys.”
Brentwood ends the 2019 season with a 10-3 record. The Bruins racked up 310 yards of total offense, but just couldn’t convert them into points.
With the game lasting well beyond three hours, Ravenwood already knew what lies ahead in the state semifinals long before the clock hit 0:00.
It’s not the second straight revenge game they sought, as Ravenwood had angled all season long for a rematch with Whitehaven, whom ousted the Raptors from the 2018 TSSAA state tournament.
That dream dissolved earlier in the evening, as Whitehaven was bumped off by Houston, who will travel to Ravenwood High School for next Friday’s state semifinal matchup.
Having outscored its three posteason opponents 104-6, the Raptors feel pretty good about this season providing that extra spark that was missing one year ago.
“So far, we’ve done everything that we already accomplished last year,” noted Coach Mercy, pointing to Ravenwood avenging a regular season loss to Brentwood with a postseason win and advancing to within one game of the championship. “Now it’s time to surpass that and accomplish things we didn’t get done last season.”