College Football: Ravenwood reunion occurs at TSU-MTSU matchup

Rowland brothers, Holt and Harper reunite on college stage

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College Football – Tennessee State at Middle Tennessee State .

Tennessee State's Chris Rowland, left, and Middle Tennessee State's Crews Holt, right, were two of four former Ravenwood Raptors teammates playing in MTSU 43-26 win over TSU on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 in Murfreesboro. 

See IMAGES for full photo gallery from the contest. 

This weekend’s football game at Middle Tennessee State served as a Ravenwood reunion of sorts for four former Raptor teammates and their high school coach.

The Raiders kicker Crews Holt, a 2015 Mr. Football Kicker of the Year at Ravenwood, and his MTSU teammates claimed a 45-26 win against FCS Tennessee State and a Tigers team featuring former Raptors Chris and Seth Rowland and Nick Harper.

Holt continued his consistent play for MTSU and the three Tigers enjoyed a feeling of a vindication after gutting it out to the end against the FBS Raiders. All four made big plays in the contest, including Chris Rowland’s 96-yard touchdown reception, Holt’s 30-yard field goal, Harper’s third-quarter interception and Seth Rowland’s big 38-yard run.

The meeting was can’t miss for former Ravenwood coach Will Hester, who guided the Raptors to back-to-back Class 6A championship games in 2014 and 2015.

“When the schedule came out, we knew this was a game we had to make,” said Hester, who coaches at Florence High School in Alabama. “It was just a cool experience for me to see all those guys and see them living out their dreams and having the time of their lives.”

All four former players spent time chatting with Hester prior to kickoff. Hester posed for photos and enjoyed the company of his former players’ families. His G2BARR (Great to be a Ravenwood Raptor) legacy established during those title runs still echoes off Wilson Pike in Brentwood.

It fired up Seth Rowland.

“He came and talked to me before the game and said just wait on it, it’s coming,” the TSU senior said. “I knew that was a sign. I knew when I saw him before the game that something good was going to happen tonight.”

The hard-working running back had a breakout night rushing for 96 yards on 11 carries. His younger brother Chris Rowland had another stat-stuffing performance to begin his senior campaign as well. He hauled in 11 receptions for a career-high 202 yards and two touchdowns against Holt’s Raiders. And though, the Tigers dropped the contest, they were within 24-19 at the end of the third and 31-26 with 10:10 to play.

“It was just like the good ol’ days,” Seth Rowland said.

“It was kind of like a flashback to three, well, four years ago when we were in those championships,” his brother Chris added.

The brothers were staples on those back-to-back championship appearances for the Raptors, who went 5-15 in the two seasons before Hester took over. The coach produced a 38-4 record over the next three seasons and despite losing Seth to graduation after the 2014 season, which included an overtime loss to Maryville in the title game, Chris, Holt and Harper returned and were all key players in Ravenwood’s 2015 championship season.

The Raptors avenged the loss to Maryville by taking the 6A crown in a championship rematch in 2015 behind four field goals from Holt in a 26-17 victory.

“It’s really crazy to think how far we all have come,” said Holt, who added eight kickoffs averaging 59.5 yards per kick Saturday. “It’s really surreal actually looking across the field and knowing they were there.”

For their former coach, it was validation.

“The toughest thing for me was seeing all of them go through their recruiting processes,” Hester admitted of their high school days.

It wasn’t until after high school when Harper, whose dad Nick played in the NFL for the Colts and the Titans, began to fully develop into a stronger, more physical cornerback. Like many of his teammates, he was passed up by several schools and spent his freshman season redshirting at Missouri State before transferring to TSU and losing another season of playing because of transfer rules.

“Nick has grown up and he had a great night,” Hester said. Harper made one tackle and returned his third-quarter interception 15 yards to set up a TSU touchdown on the next play.

The older Rowland, who spent his season after graduation at Georgia Prep Academy, has battled for playing time. Hester continually went to bat trying to convince bigger schools of the Rowland brothers and their football potential throughout their high school careers.

However, TSU has turned into a spotlight school both. 

“All these guys are special and having a good night like this is validating for all the years of hard work they have put in,” Hester said. “It brings back so many memories watching them, but they are making new ones.”

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