By SAM McGAW
The Ravenwood Raptors take on Independence Friday in a rematch of their season-finale meeting, while Nolensville travels to Maplewood for a shot at tacking on its second playoff victory in its inaugural season.
Independence (6-5) at Ravenwood (9-2), 7 p.m.
When the Ravenwood Raptors and Independence Eagles last squared off, the two battled for a shot at the Region 6-6A championship.
This Friday, the Williamson County rivals clash again, this time for a berth to the Class 6A quarterfinals.
“It was a playoff atmosphere in the last matchup, so I think that works in both of our favors,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels said. “It’s not like it’s a brand-new deal or feeling for either side, because the last time we both had a shot for the region championship. It’s going to feel pretty similar, minus the weather.”
Ravenwood defeated Independence 22-13 in the first meeting. Both teams leaned on a ground-heavy attack in the matchup, as a steady downpour lasted throughout the game.
Running back Jordan Smith led the Raptors with 237 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while Independence running back Troy Henderson had 207 rushing yards and a score.
Smith, a sophomore, has rushed for 636 yards and seven touchdowns over the last five games.
Offensive weapon Nick Stallcup joins Smith as one of Ravenwood’s top playmakers. He has 628 rushing yards, 339 passing yards, 308 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns (2 pass).
Quarterback Brian Garcia leads the aerial assault. He’s passed for 1,689 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
With dry conditions expected this week, the Raptors will be able to have more variety in their play calling.
“Both sides are going to throw a little bit more, but both sides have a little bit of a rhythm in the running game,” Daniels said. “I think you’ll see a balanced offensive attack on both sides. That puts a little more pressure on both defenses.”
Independence’s offense has ridden the shoulders of Henderson (1,305 rush yds, 162 rec. yds, 19 TDs) throughout the season.
The senior has rushed for at least 91 yards in nine games, and he’s rushed for 105 or more in five straight contests.
He racked up 122 rushing yards, 38 rushing yards and a touchdown in last week’s 14-13 win against Smyrna.
“If you hold a guy like that to 100 or 120 rushing yards, you are actually doing a pretty good job,” Daniels said. “That means you’re forcing them to throw a little bit more. We have to tackle better. We feel like we have a pretty good game plan in place to put our guys in position to tackle in smaller spaces, instead of letting him get out wide to the perimeter.”
Independence quarterback Nathan Cisco has thrown for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
His top targets at receiver are TJ Sheffield (54 rec., 823 yds, 5 TDs), Kendrell Scurry (38 rec., 525 yds, 3 TDs) and Isaiah Collier (28 rec., 518 yds, 4 TDs).
“Stops, three-and-outs and turnovers are going to be at a premium, and they’re going to be a big deal when they happen,” Daniels stated. “Every possession counts.”
Nolensville (4-7) at Maplewood (8-3), 7 p.m.
The Nolensville Knights have set a high standard in the program’s first varsity season.
In their first playoff game, the Knights pulled off a 21-14 upset victory against Livingston Academy. This week, they have an opportunity to add another notch to their belt when they visit Maplewood in a rematch of their 26-20 loss on Oct. 20.
Quarterback Brandon Wharton and running back Colton Dooley spearhead a Nolensville offense that’s averaging around 21 points per game.
Maplewood has held four of its last five opponents to 20 points or less during its five-game winning streak.
The Panthers’ offense is led by quarterback Bobo Hodges. The junior has recorded 2,060 passing yards, 572 rushing yards, 29 touchdowns (8 run) and six interceptions.
He has two capable receivers in Makell Smith and Travares Springer.
Smith has caught 41 passes for 839 yards and eight touchdowns, while Spring has 26 receptions for 587 yards and eight scores.