Our Game of the Week story is brought to you by Vanderbilt Orthopaedics.
STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
If you feel the anticipation in the air as you drive through Brentwood this week, you’ll know it’s once again time for Bruins and Raptors to clash.
The annual “Battle of the Woods” awaits for WillCo football fans Friday night at Brentwood High School, where the host school will face its ultimate rival Ravenwood for dominance of Region 6-6A.
It’s fair to wonder if the winner of this game will go on to take the region prize. That held true last year, when Brentwood upset Ravenwood on its home turf and later held on to take the region title.
Of course, these two teams are a bit different than they were last year, with the Raptors boasting one of the most talented rosters in the state and the Bruins fielding a more veteran roster and a more seasoned QB in junior Cade Granzow.
The heated contest will feature no shortage of memorable plays, and will, like all the similar ‘Battles,’ be talked about for a good while.
“We need to control our emotions as we enter this regional game,” head coach Ron Crawford said about his Bruins going into Friday’s matchup at an event Tuesday. “We need to handle the rivalry the right way and realize this is not the end of the season if we lose this game.”
The Bruins are fresh off a tough last-minute loss to Henry Co., a 5A titan, and will look to rebound against their fiercest opponent on the 2019 schedule.
Brentwood has mainly kept its games low-scoring for the opponent, with the defense averaging about 11 points a game. The offense has had two games of scoring monstrous amounts (63 vs. Dickson Co., 37 vs. Cane Ridge), and two games of two touchdowns or less (9 against MBA, 14 against Henry Co.).
Getting the Bruins offense going will be the key for them Friday night. If they can score points, they can keep pace with Ravenwood’s explosive game plan, which is fresh off a 61-point performance against an elite opponent in Pulaski Academy.
The Bruins defense will get its stops; it has all season long. Ravenwood will have its own challenge to do what it can to ignite guys like Andrew Mason, fresh off a night for the record books, and Tony Rice, the leader of the ground game, going against a stout Brentwood unit.
“Brentwood has a lot of experienced defenders in this game and we know [quarterback Brian] Garcia will need to be on his game to control their [Brentwood] back seven,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels said at Tuesday’s event.
It’ll be interesting to see if Ravenwood’s vaunted defense does against Brentwood’s potent offense.
After all, they host strong names like OLB Reggie Grimes II (the best football player in the state), OLB Junior Colson (fielding Power-5 offers), DE Luke Shouse (off to Ole Miss), DE Bryan Rice (the reigning WillCo Defensive Football Player of the Year) and OLB Jordan Smith (Richmond) in its lineup, among other two-way standouts like Shane Craig (Tennessee Tech), Graham Barton (off to play OT at Duke) and Gabe Sleenhoff (an OT headed to Yale).
Barton made the game-altering strip-sack in the Pulaski Academy win.
Brentwood is relying on veteran linebacker Xiere Howard to set the tone for the front seven. He had the key pick-six in last year’s Battle of the Woods that helped Brentwood secure that major win.
This year’s ‘Battle’ should go like all of the others. It’ll be a nail-biter and carry major ramifications for the immediate future of each team.
And, don’t worry, neither team is going to come into this one with the gear shifted in neutral.
“The one good thing, with Brentwood, you don’t really have to say anything special,” Daniels said last Friday of getting his Raptors ready for the game.
You know the feeling at BHS is mutual.
Prediction: Ravenwood 37, Brentwood 34
This game should go down to the wire, and feature some exciting offensive plays from both teams. We’ll say Ravenwood’s defense makes a turnover at some point in the game to alter the outcome, similar to how last year’s game went between these two.
Watch for Mason to get a ton of attention from the Bruins secondary after his spectacular week last week and the Raptors to use its ground game to change things up. We’re expecting Rice to be a key player in this ‘Battle.’
The game should leave Ravenwood in the driver’s seat for the region, but don’t be shocked to see these two meet up again in the playoffs come November.