BY CHIP CIRILLO
A home playoff game was on the line and Ravenwood grabbed it.
A dominating 37-21 win at Independence on Friday night gave the Raptors second place in Region 6-6A and a home playoff game against Overton next week.
“We were at our team meal today, talking to our seniors and we said, ‘You guys, it’s in your hands. You have the chance to secure a home playoff game,’ ” said Raptors coach Matt Daniels, whose team led 37-0 early in the fourth quarter before Independence scored three late touchdowns against his backups.
Independence (5-5, 3-2) took third in the region and will visit Smyrna in the first round of the playoffs next week. Brentwood won the region with a 28-21 win over Centennial.
Ravenwood quarterback Brian Garcia led the way with two rushing touchdowns and a passing TD that gave him the school record with 23 this season.
“If we lost, we would be on the road, I believe, throughout the whole [playoffs], so we wanted to give our seniors one more home game,” said Garcia, who passed for 153 yards.
Independence struggled with its exchange between center Evan Blackburn and quarterback Ethan Cash as they fumbled six times, losing two in a light rain. Backup quarterback Nathan Cisco and Blackburn also fumbled one exchange.
“We’re never that sloppy,” Cash said. “It was definitely the slickness that contributed to it, but that’s just lack of reps and that’s on me. I’ve got to do better.”
Ravenwood’s quarterbacks and centers struggled with the exchange in a game earlier this year, prompting them to take 50 snaps before every practice after that.
“We had dry balls rotating in all night and a ball heater,” Eagles coach Scott Blade said. “There are no excuses. We didn’t play well in any facet of the game tonight.”
Independence scored 93 points in its previous two games, but couldn’t get in rhythm during the first three quarters. Cash was 3 of 11 for 44 yards.
“They did what we saw on film: drop eight in coverage and rush three,” Cash said. “It’s hard to throw against.”
Cash fumbled a low snap on the game’s first possession, setting the tone for the night. Ravenwood (8-2, 4-1) recovered on the Eagle 28-yard line and William Baine scored four plays later on a 2-yard run, giving the Raptors a 7-0 lead.
Ravenwood scored again on its next possession and built a 23-0 halftime lead.
Baine rushed for 95 yards and one TD on 12 carries.
“We feel like we’ve had Indy’s number the last two years and we were probably a little more confident than they realized on the other sideline,” said Daniels, whose team beat Independence twice last year.
“I think we made a statement in the first three and a half quarters. Our defensive coordinator, Coach [Ryan] Fowler, is just incredible. I mean, he’s an ex-NFL linebacker. He’s always in the film room, he’s always in books. He does everything he can to figure out the most creative and most effective way to put our kids in the right position. We did some exotic things to put a little pressure on them.”
Fowler played for Dallas, Tennessee and the New York Jets from 2004-09.
Daniels gave his team five days off during fall break to refresh them.
“They’re high school kids,” Daniels said. “They need a break and the coaches, too. They’re a little more motivated when they come back.”
Tyrus Jackson scored once and Isaiah Collier found the end zone twice for the Eagles in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
Photo from 2017 by Deb Scally