In a tie game with a little over six minutes remaining, the Ravenwood Raptors football team (9-2) found the end zone, defeating the Whitehaven Tigers of Memphis (7-4) at home on Friday night 21-14 in the first round of the 6A playoffs.
“Every game I’ve played against Whitehaven has been like that,” said Ravenwood head coach Will Hester. “I did not expect this to be any different. Obviously, we survive and get to go to another round, but we are going to have to play better, if we want to be successful next week.”
“We just kept fighting,” said Ravenwood junior quarterback and Florida State commit Chris Parson. “We persevered and kept going. Our defense really stepped up tonight. I am glad we got the W.”
“It means a lot,” said Ravenwood wide receiver Lee Mollette. “For us seniors, our freshman year we were at Whitehaven, up 24-14 at the half. We got to the second half and didn’t finish the game. We had the opportunity to get them back after our freshman year; it feels great.”
In the opening quarter, Ravenwood got on the board first, capping off their rushing attack with an eight-yard touchdown run by junior Chris Parson to start out strong 7-0.
“I was just trying to do what I can to help my team win,” said Parson. “Kudos to the offensive line for the first touchdown. They got a good push up front, and I just pounded it in.”
“He is a great football player that is just being who he is,” said Coach Hester.
“He is just a different type of player,” said Mollette. “If we are down, he does not get down on himself.”
On the next play, Whitehaven’s Mikkal Stewart had an electric return of the kickoff for a touchdown, but a failed two point conversion kept the Raptors lead at 7-6.
Early in the second quarter, Parson led the team down the field and executed a 21-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Blake Irwin to extend the Ravenwood lead to 14-6.
“The defender was right there near him (Blake), and he made a good catch in the end zone,” said Parson.
Later in the second quarter, Whitehaven was driving until Ravenwood senior linebacker Andrew Dudas forced an interception to keep the score at halftime 14-6.
Both defenses stood tall in the third quarter until the final two minutes when Whitehaven put together a drive ending in a touchdown pass from 20 yards out on a fourth and 14 by senior quarterback Jacquez Bradley to sophomore wide receiver William Carver. The two-point conversion was good on a rushing play by Carver to tie the game at 14.
In the fourth quarter, Ravenwood’s special teams stopped the punter on a mishandled snap, setting up the Raptors with good field position at Whitehaven’s 23 yard line.
“That was all them, (special teams),” said Parson. “When they made the tackle back there, that got us in good field position, and we were able to score on the next play. Without them, that would not have been possible.”
On the next play, Parson bought some time scrambling in the back field to find senior Lee Mollette in the back of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass to give Ravenwood the lead 21-14.
“Lee Mollete was being aware on the scramble drill up until the out of bounds mark and found a way to get open with a toe tap in the back of the end zone,” said Parson. “It wasn’t pretty, but we did what we had to do the get the win tonight.”
“The play by Chris was unbelievable,” said Coach Hester. “For him to extend the play and make a good throw was awesome. We work on the scramble drill every day in practice, and Lee found the spot in the zone. He made a huge catch for us there for the game-winning touchdown.”
“We have good chemistry, and I was able to see the open zone,” said Mollette. “I saw they had another DB covering our running back, so I took advantage of that, made the catch and scored.”
With 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, Whitehaven attempted a comeback, but turned the ball over on downs, with a pass broken up by senior defensive back Issac Rollins.
“Defense played phenomenal,” said Coach Hester. “They are hitting their stride.”
Whitehaven had one more chance in the final minute of play, but the Raptors defense broke up another pass attempt on 4th and 11, with 37 seconds remaining.
The Raptors kneeled down to run out the clock and survive a scare at home, winning 21-14.
With the loss, Whitehaven’s season has concluded.
Ravenwood will advance to the second round of the 6A playoffs and travel to undefeated Collierville next Friday.
“I can just control what we do here as a team,” said Parson. “We got a lot of things that need to be fixed. We will come out and do what we can to win.”