STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTO BY WHITNEY JARRELD
If high school football only went for two quarters, the Ravenwood Raptors would be state-bound.
But there’s still another half to add to that, and that’s all the hosting Whitehaven Tigers needed to overcome a 24-10 halftime deficit to score 33 unanswered points to shock Ravenwood after the team’s strong start.
“This is kind of the first time, in all of my coaching career, that I wish we only played a 24 minute game,” Raptors head coach Matt Daniels said of the loss, mentioning his team was undersized going up against the opponent.
“There’s only so long you can physically exhaust yourself and lay it all on the line, and that’s what our kids did tonight.”
The Raptors blasted the Tigers early on in the rainy contest, with a Luke Akers field goal and William Baine red zone scamper giving the team a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Receiver Anthony Holmes would set the school record for touchdowns in a season at 13 in the middle of the second quarter to give the Raptors a comfortable 17-0 lead with about 8:21 to go to half, but in what became a running theme for the night, the Tigers wouldn’t let that be the story.
Within about three minutes, Whitehaven scored a field goal and 34-yard run to get within seven, 17-10, but with about a minute before the break, quarterback Brian Garcia threw a 33-yard dart to Andrew Mason to give Ravenwood a 24-10 advantage.
Unfortunately for Ravenwood, those would be last points of the night.
The Tigers roared back after half with 13 unanswered points before the third would be done, with the Raptors offense struggling to get into rhythm with Whitehaven ramping up its defending. They still lead 24-22 at the close of the third before the Memphis floodgates blew open.
Just seconds in to the fourth, Whitehaven took its first and final lead with a touchdown and 2-point conversion to grab the 30-24 advantage. Soon after, a costly special teams error landed the Tigers right back in the red zone, where they got up 37-24 on another touchdown with about nine minutes before the final horn.
Ravewood’s offense mounted a promising drive to try and get the score within six, but a Whitehaven turnover doomed any last attempt at momentum. Another touchdown would stamp the seal, giving the west Tennesseans a 43-24 lead that would hold.
The Raptors finish the year 10-3, runners-up in Region 6-6A.
Daniels says that Whitehaven made key halftime adjustments to mount the comeback, and that the game’s physicality and long toll of the season finally caught up with the Raptors at a difficult time.
“We just came up a little bit short,” he said, weighing the happiness of watching his guys compete with their full effort, and sadness of not being able to advance to Cookeville.
Whitehaven will now face Oakland in the Class 6A state finals.
The Raptors coach noted the team’s general youth going ahead, mentioning that the team probably has the smallest group of seniors for any 6A program.
He saluted the seniors that will leave, complimenting their guidance and work ethic and saying they’ll go far in life past the gridiron.
“You think about the future, but you think about this year and what that senior class, as leaders, were able to do with this team, it’s incredible; it’s hard to put it into words,” Daniels said. ”
The loss leaves three teams from the area, Brentwood Academy, Christ Presbyterian Academy and Battle Ground Academy, left to compete for hardware.