With Ravenwood holding a slim 54-47 lead over and explosive Pulaski Academy of Little Rock, Arkansas with just over a minute left in the game, Raptors coach Matt Daniels faced a tough decision – which player to call out to ring the traditional Victory Bell. Quarterback Brian Garcia and his friend Andrew Mason had already hooked up for seven touchdowns, accounting for all but one of the home team's scores.
Mason ended his coach’s dilemma, scooting into the end zone from six yards out for his eighth trip to pay dirt, putting an exclamation point on one of the most impressive wins in Ravenwood history and giving the Raptors a 61-47 victory, while turning some heads on the national stage against the unorthodox Bruins.
When called to ring the bell, Mason called his old friend Garcia to help.
“We’ve been playing together since eighth grade and we’ve got a lot of chemistry,” Mason said of Garcia. “That’s my boy.”
The pair combined for a near record-setting night for Mason, who unofficially had eight catches for 356 yards and seven touchdowns, just shy of a state record for yards in a single game.
Keiwone Malone of Mitchell holds the state record set in 2008 with 358 yards. The seven touchdown receptions does match Whitehaven’s Robert Tolbert, who set a state record with seven TD grabs in a game back in 1994, per the TSSAA record book.
“He’s very quick and his acceleration after he catches the ball is pretty scary,” Garcia said of his friend. “When you put those two things together with his hands, it’s game over.”
Garcia’s numbers were equally impressive. The calm, quiet-spoken Garcia finished the night 12-of-16 with no interceptions for 381 yards, seven touchdowns and an NFL-scale quarterback rating of 156.25.
Daniels was not surprised the pair put up the astounding numbers.
“I think we could shut off all the lights out here and they could still complete eight out of 10 passes in the dark," he said. "It’s a chemistry they’ve been building for seven or eight years. They are really good friends, they stay after practice and put in the work.”
To top it off, Mason was playing in his second game with a fractured wrist. The senior suffered the injury in a Week 2 win at Blackman and played with a makeshift cast on his left hand and wrist.
"He had about one-and-a-half (hands)," Garcia said of Mason with a smile.
The Raptors, who improved to 4-0 overall, did their best to end the game early against a visiting Bruin team that put up 84 points while winning their opener last week behind 900 yards of total offense from senior signal caller Braden Bratcher.
Garcia and Mason hooked up for a six-yard touchdown barely a minute and a half into the contest. Two minutes later, it was a 50-yard strike, followed up by a 71-yard touchdown with more than three minutes left in the first quarter. Bratcher found Myles Marotti for a 16-yard score, followed by a failed two-point attempt to give the Raptors a 21-6 cushion at the end of the first quarter.
The pair added two more scores in the second stanza, on passes of 37 and 60 yards, leaving the vast majority of the estimated 4,500 in attendance to enjoy Homecoming activities at the half with a 34-17 lead.
Pulaski Academy continued their aggressive style of play in the second half, never punting and attempting an on-side kick after every score. The Bruins sandwiched a pair of touchdowns around the Garcia-Mason show’s sixth TD in the third quarter to cut the Ravenwood lead to 40-32 heading into the fourth quarter.
Bratcher opened the fourth quarter with a six-yard dump pass to Dylan Allison and the Bruins added a two-point conversion to tie the game at 40 with just six ticks gone in the final period
Ravenwood tried to answer.
Facing fourth-and-six at the Pulaski 42 with 9:28 remaining, the Raptors took a page from the Bruins’ playbook, going for it on fourth down. Garcia hit Mason in the middle of the field, where the receiver was tied up a yard short before shaking off a pair of tacklers and picking up not just a first down but his seventh receiving touchdown of the night.
With Pulaski Academy moving on the ensuing drive, Ravenwood’s Graham Barton blasted a pocket-sitting Bratcher, separating the quarterback from the football. Reggie Grimes II picked it up and raced down the left sideline for 45 yards and a 54-40 lead.
Pulaski Academy answered one more time before Mason’s back breaking six-yard run.
Daniels called the victory huge for his team.
“You cannot underestimate how big a win this was," he said. "With how busy homecoming is for a school like Ravenwood and how much the players do during the week, the energy they expend; and then to play a team like this that requires so much focus.”
The victory leaves the Raptors undefeated heading into Week 5's Battle of the ‘Woods with cross-town rival Brentwood which, ironically, shares a nickname and uniform colors with Pulaski Academy.
“It’s all part of the master plan,” Daniels said with a smile. “It’s all part of the plan.”
Ravenwood 61, Pulaski Academy 47
PA – 6 11 15 15 – 47
RHS – 21 13 6 21 – 61
10:36 R – Andrew Mason 6 pass from Brian Garcia (Luke Akers kick)
8:57 R – Mason 50 pass from Garcia (Akers kick)
3:10 R – Mason 71 pass from Garcia (Akers kick)
0:50 P – Myles Marotti 16 pass from Branden Bratcher (pass failed)
11:00 R – Mason 37 pass from Garcia (Akers kick)
4:46 P – Cooper White 10 pass from Bratcher (2 PAT good)
0:23 R – Mason 60 pass from Garcia (kick blocked)
0:01 P – Clay James 48 FG
7:49 P – Bratcher 5 run (James kick)
7:00 R – Mason 48 pass from Garcia (Kick blocked)
4:28 P – Jayden Kelly 22 pass from Bratcher (2 PAT good)
11:54 P – Dylan Allison 6 pass from Bratcher (2 PAT good)
9:48 R – Mason 42 pass from Garcia (Akers kick)
7:42 R – Reggie Grimes II 45 fumble return (Akers kick)
4:33 P – Joseph Himon 8 run (James kick)
1:03 R – Mason 6 run (Akers kick).