By Joe Williams, Sports Editor
Though all five can't be seen in the picture from the Centennial contest, Ravenwood's offensive line has been critical to the Raptors success. That may never be more true than tomorrow night when Ravenwood visits Franklin. Anchoring the group (left to right) are Tyler Tinney (60), Joe Welbourne (58) Kevin Faulkner (55), Ryan O'Leary (68) and Alex Sleenhof (78). Becky Williams
Ask Franklin coach Donnie Webb and Ravenwood coach Will Hester the same questions about tomorrow night’s 7 p.m. game at Howard Gamble Stadium at Franklin and you’ll get almost the exact same answers.
“This is a huge game because it’s the next game and a district game. It is another opportunity to go 1-0,” says Webb.
“We’ve been working one game at a time all year,” says Hester. “This is no different.”
The respect between the coaches, players and programs becomes obvious from the first inquiry. The fact that they have done their homework on eachother does too.
“I expected Franklin to be up there,” says Hester about the undefeated Rebels (7-0, 3-0 District 11-AAA).
“(Joe) Critchlow is one of the best quarterbacks in the area, (Ben) Hagaman at tight end and Colton Black at running back are excellent players. They’re a good football team and playing great defense.”
Webb is equally effusive about the Raptors (6-1, 3-0 District 11-AAA).
“Ravenwood is very well coached, very balanced on offense. (Avery) Jankowski does a good job of getting the ball to the right play at the right time. (Van) Jefferson is a player and Austin Percy is a good receiver as well. They are well balanced on offense with the Rowland brothers (Chris and Seth) running. Defensively, they will bring pressure and force us to be balanced as well.”
It’s not hard to understand the mutual admiration society. The game will pit the top two passers in the district. Jankowski, a senior, has thrown for 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns while junior signal caller Critchlow has 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Both have great targets. Ravenwood’s Van Jefferson has exploded on the scene after transferring into Williamson County, catching 47 balls for 729 yards and 10 scores. When defenses concentrate on Jefferson, Austin Percy gets freed up. That has led to 20 catches for a 16 yard average and four scores.
A Week Four injury to then leading receiver Garrison Matthews has pushed the Rebels into using tight end Ben Hagaman more. The accomplished blocker has also snagged 13 pass for a 16.5-yard average, while speedy Tony Flemister is always a deep threat.
The real battle may come in the trenches, where Ravenwood’s eight man rotation of Kevin Faulkner, Joe Welbourn, Ryan O’Leary, Stephen Marconcini, Blake Gerido, Jon Singleton, Alex Sleenhof, and Tyler Tinney have spent the season giving Jankowski time to throw and a bevy of running backs holes to get through.
But Franklin counters with a defense that has recorded 22.5 sacks in just seven games. Josh Filbey (58 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Tyler Beasley (51 tackles, 7 sacks), Jackson Michie (38 tackles, 3 sacks) and Zach Orange (47 tackles, 1 sack) all will put heavy pressure on the Raptors.
Both teams are heavily in positive territory in turnovers for the year, leading the Raptors to almost 40 points a game and Franklin is scoring at a 30-point per game clip. Neither coach expects that to continue tomorrow night.
“I see it coming down to the last possession or two,” says Hester, “and hopefully we’ll have a chance to win the fourth quarter.”
“I expect it will be a typical 11-AAA game that will come down to the last possession,” says Webb. “Our goal is to score one more point than they do.”
Posted on: 10/17/2013