If there was any silver lining to come of their rough start on a rainy night, it was that the Ravenwood Raptors were fortunate to only allow two points following a series of miscues.
A near-disastrous start for the Raptors quickly transitioned into their season-long brand of football, relying on sound defense and timely long offensive plays in trumping Cane Ridge, 28-15 in non-conference play Friday evening at Ravenwood High School.
“I think our guys were just in a little bit of shock,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels told Williamson Home Page of his team’s struggling game start. “Last year at the Independence game in the rain, it was Indy who struggled and we were great. We got down on ourselves a little bit but we settled down.
Senior quarterback Brian Garcia eventually settled into his typical night at the office, throwing for 193 yards and three touchdowns. It was done in the most efficient manner imaginable, coming on just 5/8 passing and all but 17 yards stemming from his three touchdown passes.
Getting to that point came with growing pains, however. The visiting Ravens capitalized on a series of miscues between Garcia and senior center Anthony Jensen, the worst of which was an errant snap that sailed past the 5’10” quarterback and into the end zone for a Cane Ridge safety and a 2-0 lead.
“I was like ‘Oh my!’ I couldn’t catch a snap,” Garcia sheepishly admitted afterward. “They had the ball in really good field position because I kept dropping the snaps.”
Ball mishandling led to Cane Ridge enjoying prominent field position on its first three drives, only for Ravenwood’s defense to hold the line. From there, the Raptors’ high flying offense took care of the rest.
A 62-yard strike from Garcia to Ross Johnston gave Ravenwood a 7-2 lead which they would never relinquish.
“Brian settled down, our center settled down and we put together some drives,” acknowledged Daniels. “We made plays when we needed to, we had some long plays and we got the win. That’s what important.”
The rain and frigid temperature made for sloppy football in between scores, with both teams doing their best to play the hand they were dealt. Ravenwood put the game away following a pair of long touchdown receptions at the end of the first half.
Garcia connected with Trevor Andrews on a 49-yard pass to give the Raptors a 14-2 lead late in the second quarter, then hooking up with season-long favorite target Andrew Mason for 65 yards to go up 21-2 at the half.
“You just gotta take what they give you,” Garcia noted in adjusting to the inclement weather. “It’s tough to launch it on nights like this but I have a job to do in leading this team. I just had to get the ball in my play makers’ hands and they did the rest.”
Senior running back Tony Rice helped put the game out of reach following a 75-yard touchdown run on the Raptors’ first drive of the second half.
From there, the defense did the job, even in giving up the occasional long play which didn’t sit well with the coaching staff but also didn’t discourage the players from rebounding on each occasions.
“We made plays when we needed to, we had some long plays and we got the win,” stated Daniels. “That’s what important.”
Every win this late in the season is important, particularly in games where you can expect to see your opponent again in the playoffs. That alone was enough to motivate the team on a night when neither the weather nor the game flow always cooperated.
“We’ve established this rivalry with Cane Ridge these past couple of years. This was the first time they came to our place in a while,” pointed out Daniels. “Those guys came ready to play. It didn’t take much to push our boys, they knew what was at stake and that there’s a real chance we will see them in the playoffs again.”
Despite the loss, Cane Ridge (7-3/5-0 in Region 5-AAAAAA play) continues to sit pretty for its postseason run. The Ravens claimed the divisional title two weeks ago, although hoping to send a message on this night.
Instead, all they could settle for were a pair of late touchdowns when the game was out of reach.
“The defense has been spectacular all season,” said an appreciative Garcia. “Even when our offense doesn’t click, they’re doing their part in keeping our opponents out of the end zone and giving us as many opportunities as possible put points on the board and win."
The Ravens have done that extraordinarily well this season, improving to 8-1 in picking up their fourth straight victory in the process. The one loss, however, keeps them from the top spot in Region 6-AAAAAA play, as Brentwood has sown up the divisional title and will enjoy home field advantage for as long as they remain in the playoffs thanks to a 25-13 win over Ravenwood five weekends ago during rivalry week.
Rather, the Raptors have to bring their best effort to Independence High School’s campus next Friday, with the winner going on to claim second place in the division and enjoying at least one home postseason game.
For now, the weather calls for clear skies and merely cold temperatures once the sun sets.
“Obviously we can’t control Mother Nature,” observes Daniels. “All we can do is hope for ideal playing conditions, but as we showed tonight, we have to be ready for anything. Independence, Brentwood, these guys—we’re playing every game as if we’re going to see them again in the playoffs.
“[Friday night], I think we both just did our best to get through the game. We got the win, they played hard, we both move past it and prepare for even better football in the weeks to come.”