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Strength born of fire: Raptors not so secret weapon
 




Ravenwood's offensive line gets instructions on adjustments to be made during the Franklin game earlier this year. The ability to make adjustments in the line will be critical for the Raptors to stop Blackman tomorrow night. Becky Williams



At this point in the season all the games are tough.
 
And given that his team has played in plenty of close games against good competition this fall, Will Hester is confident his Ravenwood Raptors can handle the pressure.
 
“Our kids have been in those pressure situations,” the Ravenwood coach said. “Our effort and attitude helps us overcome. It gets easier the more times you put yourself in those situations.”
 
Ravenwood (10-1) hosts Blackman (9-2) Friday night in a second round 6A playoff battle between two teams ranked among the state’s top 10 by the Associated Press. Game time is 7 p.m.
 
The game also will be broadcast regionally on Comcast Sports Southeast as part of the channel’s ongoing coverage of high school football in the Southeast.
 
The Blaze, the No. 3 seed in quadrant 2, comes in with confidence after a 42-0 throttling of Smyrna last week in the first round. Blackman had won eight straight games to start the season before dropping its final two games of the season against unbeaten Oakland and Bowling Green (Ky).
 
With the explosive potential on offense from quarterback Jauan Jennings and a stable of running backs, coach Philip Shadowens’ team is averaging 41.4 points in its nine victories, while the Blaze defense is giving up just 11.9 points per game all season.
 
“Their offensive line may be what makes them as dynamic as they’ve been,” Hester said. “And their defense will be the best we’ve played against all year.”
 
The Raptors have won six straight since an overtime loss to Overton on Sept. 27, including last week’s 49-26 playoff win over Cane Ridge. Ravenwood, the winner of District 11-AAA, had not made a playoff appearance since 2008 and endured four seasons of a .500 record or worse prior to Hester’s arrival in the spring.
 
The formula for success was simple: make the players believe you care.
“We wanted to show the kids we cared about them,” he said. “We had to get them to accept us first, then they would care about football. The kids bought into that, and they’re playing hard for us.”
 
And with five of their 11 games decided by 10 points or less, Hester has the Raptors believing in themselves as well. Against Blackman, they will need to rely on past experience, Hester said.
 
“We could have easily been a 5-5 team if we had responded differently,” he said. “I don’t think there will be much of that nervousness in this game.”
 
Scoring points and controlling Blackman’s offense are the two keys for Ravenwood, Hester said. Ravenwood has a +22 turnover margin this season on defense (19 interceptions, 15 fumbles recovered), so being able to tackle players in space and being in the right place at the right time could be the difference.
 
“We have to stay opportunistic on defense to give ourselves a chance,” he said. “We just have to execute at a high level.”
 

Posted on: 11/14/2013

 
 

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