As familiar as are Ravenwood and Cane Ridge with one another, the latest entry far differed from any other in their longstanding rivalry as the Raptors sprint towards another all-too familiar foe.
A night filled with milestones ended with the Raptors advancing to the state quarterfinals following a 35-0 shutout win over the hosting Ravens in their Class 6A playoff matchup.
Raptors senior quarterback Brian Garcia torched the Ravens defense for 285 yards and three touchdown passes, while also hitting two significant marks in his stellar career.
The first play from scrimmage—which came after the Ravens fumbled and turned over the opening kickoff—saw the senior quarterback connect with Tony Rice on a 36-yard strike, pushing him just past the 7,000-yard plateau.
The opening drive ended with the first score of the night, with Garcia hitting Trevor Andrews from eight yards out for his 80th career TD pass.
“It’s a great feeling,” Garcia told Home Page of hitting the milestones early in the game. “I never had any doubt it was going to happen tonight with all of the talent that surrounds me. You look side to side, there’s 5-6 guys who are going to play at the next level.”
With the manner in which they’ve been shutting down opposing offenses, the entire Ravenwood defense added yet another notable résumé entry. The Raptors have not allowed a score in each of the past eight quarters of play, pitching its second straight shutout after beating Stewarts Creek by the same score one week prior.
“Really the last two weeks, the guys are really peaking right now,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels told the Home Page. “It’s hard to put into words. We’re still making mistakes, of course, it’s high school football. But to see them go into a game after the week of practice we had and then execute on Friday night, it’s just a beautiful sight to see."
Cane Ridge quarterback Xayvion Clemmons did all he could to will his team to something better than what would come of the night as they amassed just 132 yards of total offense and 9 first downs on the night.
Ravenwood’s shutdown defense just wasn’t having it. Linebacker Jordan Smith delivered the performance of a lifetime, leading the charge with 8 ½ tackles, including a quarterback sack and interception.
“Ever since he’s come back from injury, he’s just been playing lights out football,” Daniels noted.
The lights were functionally turned out on Cane Ridge’s season by the end of the first quarter. Garcia connected with Jake Briningstool on a 65-yard strike to put the Raptors up 14-0, which was more than enough for their defense to hold down.
Through also the statistical milestones for the Raptors both as a team—including 394 yards of total offense and 20 first downs—and through individual efforts, came a time marking moment of another kind for its star two-way talent.
“Tonight was personal for me,” admitted Reggie Grimes II, who rushed for 42 yards and two touchdowns while also covering plenty of ground on the defensive side. “On this very day one year ago, I lost my best friend.”
It was on this day one year ago when Grimes—then a junior at Mt. Juliet High School—was forced to bear the pain that came with the tragic death of Jayshawn Taylor, who was shot and killed by a homeschool student who still stands trial for the crime.
Through a heavy heart, Grimes carries his memory into each and every game. The second-generation footballer—whose father Reggie Sr. played in the NFL—remains among the nation’s most heavily recruited prospects. His two-touchdown night and shutdown pass rush defense certainly didn’t hurt his cause. Nor did his Raptors becoming the first team since 2014 to hold Cane Ridge scoreless.
“This one meant a whole lot and I’m glad we got the shutout,” noted Grimes.
It was a far different game than the rain-soaked non-conference matchup they played one month ago. Ravenwood claimed a 28-15 in the win, though at the expense of the inclement weather tearing up their football field, costing them two straight home games between the regular season finale and opening round playoff game.
Even as the number two seed in the playoffs, Ravenwood is now looking at its third straight road game. An intended home game versus Stewarts Creek one week ago instead took place at neutrally based Franklin High School. Friday’s win came at Cane Ridge, as was the case when the Raptors ended the Ravens’ season at this very point one year ago.
Similarly, the win sets up another round of the Battle of the Woods, as Ravenwood gears up for a revenge-fueled rematch with the Brentwood Bruins, who advanced following a win over conference rival Independence.
Brentwood handed the Raptors their lone loss of the season way back in Week Five, with the two teams going chalk in conference play to give the Bruins the title and home field advantage in the playoffs.
That was then; this is now.
“We are a different football team than we were two months ago,” insists Grimes. “They’re not the same team, we’re not taking them for granted. But we’re not the same team either.”
Their seven-game win streak is evidence of that, though the proof will come next Friday at Brentwood High School. With a win, the Raptors could finally enjoy its lone home game of the postseason in hosting a state semifinal game.
Of course, the task at hand is cleaning up unfinished business.
“They caught us at the right time; we were playing well but weren’t quite clicking and didn’t finish the job that night,” Daniels said of their lone loss of the season on Sept. 20. “They’re going to want to do that again to us, but we know the work we’ve put in to improve every aspect of our game.
“It has the makings of another classic battle.”