Jordan Smith ran for two touchdowns, Ross Johnston caught a pair, Brian Garcia threw for 189 yards and Bryan Rice had three-and-a-half tackles for a loss as Ravenwood buried previously unbeaten Houston 42-21 to earn a spot in the BlueCross Bowl next Saturday night for the TSSAA Class 6A state championship against Maryville.
“The game was a lot closer than the scoreboard," said Raptors coach Matt Daniels. "I didn’t feel comfortable until about two minutes left in the game.”
Ravenwood earned a fifth trip to the state championship game in just 17 years of existence, but unlike most of their 13 victories this year, it did not come easily.
Garcia was sacked on the first play of the game, caught by a scorching fast rush from the blind side edge. For one of the first times this season, the Raptors went three-and-out on their first possession.
Houston (13-1) took the opportunity to punch Ravenwood in the mouth, with Tennessee Titans Class 6A Mr. Football finalist Lincoln Pare bowling over from seven yards out to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead barely three minutes into the contest. Pare entered the contest with more than 2,600 rushing yards on the season.
“We took that punch; it was a little bit of a reality check,” Daniels said. “I think both sides hadn’t seen a dog fight like that in a while.”
Three minutes later Garcia found Johnston for 28 yards and the first of two scoring hook-ups to tie the game, and three minutes later Smith picked up the first of his two rushing touchdowns on a four-yard run, giving his team a 14-7 lead.
From there, Ravenwood called on new names. With Tony Rice out after tweaking an ankle, Connor Pace stepped up for a second consecutive game and produced 88 yards on 14 carries and Smith carried the ball eight times for 55 yards and his two TDs. Through the air, Andrew Mason drew coverage like honey draws bees, opening up lanes for Jake Briningstool (6 receptions, 116 yards and a TD) and Johnston (4-51-2).
“Our guys executed the game plan; it’s as simple as that," Daniels said. "We knew Lincoln Pare was going to get his yards, we knew they were going to put up some points. But we stuck with our plan by pounding the ball and we gave our defense a chance.
Ravenwood senior quarterback Brian Garcia scored four touchdowns, the Raptors defense came u…
“It was a complete team effort tonight. The defense rose to the occasion and the offense answered when we needed them.”
Given the chance, the defense did come up big.
Junior Colson had a team-high nine tackles and a crucial, momentum-changing interception deep in Ravenwood territory late. Smith added 7.5 tackles, three for a loss, and his own Mustang drive-killing interception to go with his offensive highlights. Myles Dawson (7 tackles, 5 for a loss) and Bryan Rice (6.5 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks) all spent time in the Houston backfield. Avery Miller added seven tackles to help hold Pare to just 140 yards on 40 carries. He entered averaging more than 203 yards per outing.
“It was a dogfight. It was like a heavyweight championship fight,” Bryan Rice said after the contest. “They gave their best and we gave our best and we came out on top. That was the best offense we’ve faced all year.”
The win puts Ravenwood (13-1) in the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech next Saturday against Maryville (14-0). The Raptors have faced Maryville twice before in the season’s final contest, falling 35-34 in overtime on a failed two-point conversion in 2014, then avenging that loss with a 26-17 victory in 2015.
It’s honestly hard to determine which unit has been playing more impressively in the postsea…
Ravenwood 42, Houston 21, Class 6A Semifinals
Houston – 7 0 7 7 – 21
Ravenwood – 14 7 7 14 – 42
8:54 H – Lincoln Pare 7 run (Kick good);
5:34 R – Ross Johnston 28 pass from Brian Garcia (Luke Akers kick);
2:15 R – Jordan Smith 4 run (Akers kick);
5:39 R – Reggie Grimes 13 run (Akers kick);
6:14 R – Jake Briningstool 4 pass from Garcia (Akers kick);
1:21 H – Grayson Hitt 14 pass from Ethan Burns (Kick good);
10:27 R – Johnston 14 pass from Garcia (Akers kick);
10:09 H – Hitt 57 pass from Burns (Kick good);
2:00 R Smith 5 run (Akers kick).
PASSING – HHS: Ethan Burns 12-21-2-2 for 185. RHS: Brian Garcia 15-23-0-3 for 189.
RECEIVING – HHS 12-185-2 (Grayson Hitt 9-167-2; Lincoln Pare 1-12; RH Frankland 2-6). RHS 15-189-3 (Jake Briningstool 6-116-1; Ross Johnston 4-51-2; Trevor Andrews 1-13; Andrew Mason 2-1; Reggie Grimes 1-(-3)).
RUSHING – HHS 50-181-1 (Lincoln Pare 40-140-1; Ethan Burns 4-35; Will Stegall 2-7; Ben Stegall 2-1; Jaylin Momon 2-(-2)). RHS 29-137-3 (Conner Pace 14-88; Jordan Smith 8-55-2; Reggie Grimes 2-15-1; Brian Garcia 5-(-21).