The Ravenwood Raptors can’t help but feel like they’ve been here before.
The defending regional champions hit their stride in the right time of the season, finding a way to stifle the Independence Eagles’ normally potent offense in a 28-14 win Friday evening at Independence High School.
Trevor Andrews and Ross Johnston connected for two first half scores in the pivotal win, which created a major shakeup in the Region 6-6A standings.
“Football games come down to a few plays,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels told the Home Page after the victory in the final regular season game. “We were fortunate enough to be on the right side of more of those tonight.”
Ravenwood came flying out the gate, scoring on its first two possessions of the game. The Raptors mixed it up with their run and pass attack, though it was the arm of Andrews (11-of-17, 180 yards, 3TDs, 1INT; 115 rushing yards) which led to a commanding 14-0 lead barely 10 minutes into the game.
Andrews connected with Johnston on a 26 yard strike to cap a brilliant 10-play, 80-yard opening drive. After the defense—anchored by All-American linebacker Junior Colson (8 solo tackles, 1 rushing TD)—did its part to contain the Eagles offense, the Raptors immediately made it count. Andrews found Justin Smitherman (85 receiving yards, 1 TD; 63 rushing yards) on a 76-yard catch and dash to put the Eagles in an early hole.
“Starting fast is huge, especially against an offense as good as a Indy’s,” noted Daniels, though cognizant of not being able to entirely contain them. “Stopping (Jaxson) Campbell is a tall task so any early cushion is a good thing.”
Independence’s defense helped prevent a rout, as River Katina picked off an errant pass from Andrews to give the Eagles a chance to get on the board. Jaxson Campbell (17-of-27, 209 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 21 rushing yards) would eventually work his magic, threading the needle to find Brigham Morricai in the end zone on an 18-yard pass to cut the lead in half midway through the second quarter.
Ravenwood immediately responded, with Andrews and Johnston once again connecting. This time it was for 11 yards to give the Raptors a 21-7 lead with under 5:00 to go in the first half.
Johnston finished the game with four catches for 49 yards and 2 TDs.
Campbell once again made something out of nothing on the final drive of the half. The stud all-purpose threat avoided a sack on 4ih and 10 at the Raptors 30 to find a wide open Ty Lockwood, who took it to the house to bring Independence within seven as Ravenwood led 21-14 at the half.
It was the last gasp from the Eagles’ offense who went cold once the teams returned from the locker room.
Neither offense found their flow in the third quarter, despite Ravenwood enjoying a lengthy drive midway through only to come up empty. Still, their defense kept them ahead the entire time.
“So proud of both sides of the ball tonight for fighting and scrapping all night,” stated Daniels.
Ravenwood put the game out of reach for good early in the fourth quarter, starting the final 12 minutes at the Independence 3-yard line. Colson effortlessly darted into the end zone to give the Raptors a 28-14 lead that would hold up through the final whistle.
Independence attempted to drive, only for a rare bad pass by Campbell finding its way to Raptors defensive back Isaac Rollins. Ravenwood essentially ran out the clock to preserve the win, creating chaos in a playoff picture which seemed straightforward one week ago.
A big win by Independence over the Brentwood Bruins just six days ago appeared to be the momentum necessary for the Eagles to clinch top honors in Region 6-6A. Instead, Friday’s loss—coupled by the Bruins’ dominant win over Centennial—left Independence, Brentwood and Ravenwood at 4-1 each in conference play.
Tiebreaker rules call for head-to-head-matchups to determine first place. As Brentwood owns a win over Ravenwood from earlier in the season, it’s the Bruins who go from second place to its third straight regular season title.
Meanwhile, Ravenwood enters the postseason firing on all cylinders at the right time, as they prepare for a run which they hope will lead to a second straight trip to the state finals.
“Excited to see what we can do going forward as we continue to take pride in the little things,” said Daniels.