By SAM McGAW
In his first year as Ravenwood’s head coach, Matt Daniels guided the Raptors to a Region 6-6A title and 10-3 record.
In Year 2 of his tenure, Daniels returns several key starters on offense, but has a lot of replacements to make on the other side of the ball.
“We think we’re a great bunch of players and a great bunch of coaches,” Ravenwood coach Matt Daniels said at the Williamson County Schools Sports Conference Football Media Day. “Nothing has changed in terms of internal expectations. What I’ve learned in being at Ravenwood for two years, one year as an assistant, the expectations are always a state championship.
“These kids know the tradition of Ravenwood football and they embody that.”
While they lose reigning Region 6-6A Player of the Year Nick Stallcup, the Raptors return some key contributors from last year’s attack that averaged 32.15 points per game.
Stallcup lined up everywhere for the Raptors, including quarterback. With him gone, junior Brian Garcia will take complete control of the spread offense.
Garcia passed for 1,589 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.
He’ll be joined in the backfield by junior running back Jordan Smith, who rushed for 890 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Garcia’s top weapons at receiver are Anthony Holmes and Andrew Mason.
Holmes will primarily work from the slot, while Mason has been pushed to the outside.
Holmes had 34 catches for 400 yards, 331 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017. Mason racked up 24 catches for 297 yards and two touchdowns.
“Last year, Anthony lined up in the backfield, lined up in the slot and all over in our dynamic offense,” Daniels said. “We can use him in a number of different ways. He’ll be a little more consistently lining up in the slot this year. He’s kind of taking Andrew Mason’s place. We’re moving Andrew Mason outside to outside receiver. He has some significant speed we like to take advantage of out there.”
Junior tackles Gabe Sleenhof and Graham Barton are the only returning starters on the offensive line. Senior Reagan Carlson will contribute up front.
While Ravenwood’s offense will mostly stay intact, its defense must replace its entire linebacking corps and its secondary.
“We’ve got a couple of young, talented, athletic linebackers, but we’re having to replace Anthony McCarthy, Mason Stauffer and Brandon Huff,” Daniels said. “Those guys had nearly 380 of our tackles. McCarthy is very difficult to replace. It’s going to be by committee. We love some of the talent and speed in our defensive backfield, but there’s complete inexperience.”
McCarthy was the Region 6-6A Co-Defensive Player of the Year last fall.
Daniels said the defensive line will be the anchor of his defense this season.
Juniors Bryan Rice and Luke Shouse and are expected to make major impacts at defensive end. Carlson and senior Brandon Carver will also play a big role in the trenches.
Shouse, who stands at 6-foot-7, 235 lbs, has a scholarship offer from Cincinnati.
“The defensive line is, hands-down, our biggest strength on that side of the ball,” Daniels said.