Not even the late decision to hit the road for a budgeted home game slowed down the Ravenwood Raptors’ high-flying attack.
Senior quarterback Brian Garcia accounted for three touchdowns, two in the air and running in the first score of the night in leading the Raptors to a 35-0 victory over the visiting Stewarts Creek Red Hawks in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs.
The game was forced to Franklin High School’s Howard Gamble Stadium due to Ravenwood’s home field still under repair.
“We’ve played here before, we opened up here last year. We were fired up and just ready for playoff football. It’s as simple as that,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels told Home Page.
“We’ve dealt with the field issue the past couple of weeks. It’s extra motivation. We had to change up our plan, it’s not a true home game. We had to get buses and all that, and just made the decision yesterday out of concern for player safety.”
It quickly became Raptor headquarters by early Friday evening.
If the “Welcome to R House” signs weren’t enough of a clue, Ravenwood’s stellar defense and potent offense drove home that message on their respective first series. A three-and-out to start the game left the Raptors with favorable field position, the only challenge coming in a personal foul penalty on their first snap.
The 15-yard penalty only contributed to the loaded stats, as Garcia (15/18, 259 yards, 2 TDs; 1 rushing TD) put Ravenwood on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run. It turned out to be more than enough, as its defense held the Red Hawks to just 95 yards of total offense.
“If we would’ve just scored a field goal, it would’ve been enough, the way the defense stepped up tonight,” Garcia told Home Page. “They were just lights out tonight.”
The visiting Red Hawks clearly had the same viewpoint of Ravenwood’s offense, which racked up 416 total yards and touchdowns on each of its first five possessions.
Less than 13 minutes into the game, the Raptors already enjoyed a 21-0 lead. Garcia connecting with highly-touted tight end Jake Briningstool on a 30-yard strike to cap a 69-yard rive, while senior running back Tony Rice further spread out Stewart Creek’s defense, racking up 104 all-purpose yards including 98 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Every touchdown ended the same way, with Stewarts Creek forced to begin at its own 20 yard line. Through the first 24 minutes, they never advanced much further than that, thanks to the Raptors’ menacing defense, led by Junior Colson and Reggie Grimes II.
“We wanted it badly, we really wanted that shutout,” stated Colson (6 ½ tackles, 1 QB sack).
It was a sentiment shared by his peers, including Grimes who also contributed to the offense with a 46-yard dash to the house to put Ravenwood up 28-0 midway through the second quarter.
“The shutout definitely meant more,” humbly stated Grimes, a second-generation gridiron star who has spent his senior year as the most heavily recruited players in the nation. “It’s hard to get a shutout in an environment like this. That was big.”
A 3 yard touchdown pass from Garcia to wideout Ross Johnston (82 yards, 1 rec. TD) gave the Raptors a 35-0 lead heading into halftime, that score holding up the rest of the way through.
“We came out strong, that was one of the strongest halves we ever had,” noted Daniels. “That’s a really good football team and we came on fire. I would’ve liked to have finished stronger, but beggars can’t be choosers. We just take what was given and treat it as a tale of two halves, using the second half to figure out what we need to fix heading into next week.”
Stewarts Creek came out strong to start the second half, holding Ravenwood to a three-and-out and its first punt of the night on the opening drive but failing to capitalize on the momentum on the offensive front.
Jonnie Simmons scrambled for 10 yards on the first play of the Red Hawks’ opening drive of the second half, only to turn the ball over three plays later when an errant pass landed in the hands of senior defensive back John Creech (2 tackles, 1 INT).
Ravenwood would return the favor at the end of its next drive, going 51 yards to the Stewart Creek 1 before moving backwards on two straight rushing attempts. Garcia took to the air, only for Marco Thomas to pick off a corner pass in the end zone for a touchback.
Stewart Creek’s last gasp at putting points on the board ultimately encapsulated its night long frustration. A 79-yard drive ended with an end zone fumble, recovered by junior defensive lineman Brenden Reed.
The final Red Hawks drive of the night wrapped up with senior defensive back Ian Gatlin intercepting a pass at midfield, ending its first playoff run in three seasons as their season closes with a respectable 8-3 record.
Meanwhile, Friday’s win sets up the Raptors rematch with the Cane Ridge Ravens, who claimed a 42-7 home win over the visiting Franklin Rebels.
Cane Ridge will host a second round game versus Ravenwood next Friday, which will come three weeks after their Oct. 25 meeting by opening whistle.
The Raptors claimed a rain-soaked 28-15 win in what was its final home game of the season, despite the fact that the last two were scheduled to take place at Ravenwood High School.
“That game really tore up our field,” noted Garcia. “But it doesn’t matter where we play. Cane Ridge is going to be ready. We will get to celebrate this win for a little bit and then prepare for the next game. They will want revenge, and we’re going to their house this time.”
Ravenwood will come in armed with a six-game win streak, with the latest advancing the team record to 10-1. In November, however, team records and past results mean little.
“This is a team we’re very familiar with over the last three years,” Daniels notes of the Ravens, whom the Raports eliminated from the playoffs at the very same point in the season as will come next week’s game.
“They have some really good players over there and I expect fireworks. It’s going to be a really fun second round playoff game.”