It’s honestly hard to determine which unit has been playing more impressively in the postseason — Ravenwood’s offense or defense.
Luckily for head coach Matt Daniels, he doesn’t have to pick one. He can just enjoy the fact that his football team appears to be hitting full stride at precisely the right time.
The Raptors notched their second consecutive shutout on Friday night with a 35-0 road victory against Cane Ridge in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. Senior quarterback Brian Garcia completed 12-of-20 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns for the Raptors (11-1), who opened the postseason by downing Stewarts Creek by the same score of 35-0 last week in the first round.
The red-hot Raptors will now head into a quarterfinal-round showdown against rival Brentwood for the second season in a row. Ravenwood will carry a seven-game winning streak into the contest — dating back to a loss to Brentwood in Week 5.
Ravenwood has been considered state-title contenders throughout the season, and after flexing its postseason muscles the past two weeks, the team’s stock appears to be higher than ever.
“The last two weeks — it’s almost hard to put it into words in terms of the way our guys are peaking right now,” said Daniels. “We are still making some mistakes, of course. But it’s high school football, so you have to live with that. Overall, I am just so proud of our kids. Over the last couple of weeks, the kids have really been resilient, they’ve practiced really well and focused all week. … And then, to see them execute on a Friday night when it counts, that makes me a really proud coach.”
Garcia continued his impressive senior season with a terrific performance against Cane Ridge (8-4). In the process, he marched past a milestone by surpassing the 7,000-yard mark in passing yards for his career.
“(The career numbers) are a great feeling but I couldn’t do it without all these guys around me,” Garcia said. “I mean, I look side to side, and there’s five or six guys who are going to play at the next level. So, hat’s off to them. And the O-line did a heck of job tonight, too.”
Indeed, there were plenty of kudos to go around for the Raptors.
Andrew Mason had five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown and Jake Briningstool added three catches for 87 yards with a score. Highly-touted senior Reggie Grimes II rushed for a team-high 42 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and the Raptor defense forced four turnovers and limited the Ravens to just 107 yards of total offense. Jordan Smith, returning from an injury, had an interception, and Ben Severance also picked off a pass.
But as solid as the victory was, Daniels says his team doesn’t feel it has accomplished anything yet.
“They’re hungry for more,” he said. “It’s like, okay, we’ve got two playoffs shutouts, let’s go get a third. Our offense is supporting the defense on the sideline more than we ever have, and it really just brings the team together. It’s so cool to see that.”
Friday’s game marked Ravenwood’s third win over Cane Ridge in the span of 12 months, including a frantic comeback win in last year’s playoffs and a 25-13 victory earlier this season.
And while there was a lengthy list of outstanding performances on Ravenwood’s side, Garcia clearly stood center stage. He opened the game with eight completions among his first 10 passes, throwing for 190 yards and two touchdowns in that stretch while helping steer Ravenwood to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
“We saw on film that last week they were running some zone, so we had a plan for that,” Garcia said. “But we also had a feeling they were going to come out in man (coverage) against us, and they did that. And I’ll take my guys against anyone, man to man. It’s going to be tough to guard all of them.”
Garcia completed two touchdown passes in the first quarter — an 8-yarder to Trevor Andrews and a 56-yarder to Briningstool — to give the Raptors a quick 14-0 lead. Garcia then added his third TD pass by hooking up with Mason on a 40-yard scoring pass over the middle near the midway mark of the second quarter, and Ravenwood carried a 21-0 lead into the locker room.
The Raptors were content to mostly keep things on the ground during the second half, and Grimes did a great deal of the heavy lifting. Showcasing a Derrick Henry-style workmanship, he gained tough yards throughout the final two quarters and also scored pair of touchdowns, both on four-yard runs, to finish off the win.
The stage is now set for what seems destined to be a classic quarterfinal matchup, as Ravenwood and Brentwood get together for another installment of the Battle of the Woods.
“You can’t ask for a better Middle Tennessee matchup,” said Daniels. “Back to back years, Battle of the Woods in the quarterfinals. Obviously, both teams are going to be very hungry for that opportunity to host a semifinal game on their own turf. It’s going to be an awesome game. I’m so excited and I’m sure Coach Crawford is sitting there thinking the same thing.
"What a great thing for our kids to be a part of.”
Ravenwood (10-1) scored on all five of its first-half possessions, covering 311 yards in jus…
Ravenwood 35, Cane Ridge 0, Class 6A Second Round
Ravenwood 14 7 7 7 — 35
Cane Ridge 0 0 0 0 — 0
1Q (8:27) R – Trevor Andrews 8 pass from Brian Garcia (Luke Akers kick);
1Q (2:40) R – Jake Briningstool 56 pass from Garcia (Akers kick);
2Q (6:45) R – Andrew Mason 40 pass from Garcia (Akers kick);
3Q (5:11) R – Reggie Grimes II 4 run (Akers kick);
4Q (8:58) R – Grimes II 4 run (Akers kick).
First Downs: Ravenwood 20, Cane Ridge 8
Total offense: Ravenwood 394, Cane Ridge 107
Rushing Att/Yards: Ravenwood 27-109, Cane Ridge 22-22
Passing Yards: Ravenwood 285, Cane Ridge 85
Comp-Att-Ints: Ravenwood 12-20-0, Cane Ridge 14-24-2
Penalties-Yards: Ravenwood 12-80, Cane Ridge 16-160
Punts-Ave: Ravenwood 2-37.5, Cane Ridge 5-36.4
Fumbles-Lost: Ravenwood 0-0, Cane Ridge 2-2
Ravenwood — Brian Garcia 12-20-0-2 — 285; Cane Ridge — Xayvion Clemmons 14-24-2-0 — 85.
Ravenwood — Reggie Grimes II 10-42, Andrew Mason 2-29, Tony Rice 7-26, Justin Smitherman 2-9, Brian Garcia 5-4, Will Kaylor 1-(-1); Cane Ridge — Reginald Goodloe 3-15, Adonai Mitchell 1-14, Maliek Campbell 2-8, Ty’Roid Good 3-7, Jaylyn Pleasant 1-1, Kenneth Bread 1-1, Byron Davis 1-0, Quenton Barnes 1-0, Joshua Dawkins 1-(-2), Xayvion Clemmons 8-(-22).
Ravenwood — Andrew Mason 5-115, Jake Briningstool 3-87, Tony Rice 1-37, Reggie Grimes II 1-23, Ross Johnston 1-15, Trevor Andrews 1-8; Cane Ridge — Kenneth Bread 4-40, Quenton Barnes 1-21, Maliek Campbell 1-10, Ty’Roid Good 5-6, Brijon Watson 1-6, Adonai Mitchell 2-2.