By JAKE DONOVAN
Even with the scoreboard establishing a clear winner and loser, the Ravenwood Raptors and Christ Presbyterian Academy (CPA) Lions got everything they wanted out of their non-conference matchup.
Raptors senior quarterback Brian Garcia threw for 197 yards and three touchdown passes en route to a 24-7 win over the Lions in non-conference play Thursday evening on CPA campus. Garcia also added 52 yards on the ground, while Ravenwood’s defense held the Lions to just 173 yards of total offense.
The win was the second straight for Ravenwood without head coach Matt Daniels, who is currently serving a suspension over TSSAA violations stemming from an incident in practice in late September.
“These guys know how to play and what’s expected of them,” Andrew Elrod, Ravenwood interim head coach told Home Page. “I hate they’ve gotten used to adversity, but… they’ve overcome it pretty well.”
The win-loss records on the season—coupled with Ravenwood’s season-long reputation as a top-tier middle Tennessee football program—suggested a long night for hosting CPA, who put together a brutal non-conference schedule this season. Still, the Lions—a far younger rostered team than the championship squad from one year ago—have remained game for every challenge every step of the way, as evidenced by a heartbreaking loss to the Brentwood Bruins just two weeks ago.
Matched against another powerhouse program, CPA didn’t show any fear. A scoreless tie was finally broken early in the second quarter when junior quarterback Cade Law (8-14, 82 yards, 1 TD) connected with junior wideout Maverick Rodriguez (6 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD) on a 69-yard strike to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.
Ravenwood sought to answer, but ultimately came up empty on a 54-yard drive that ended on a loss of downs from a Garcia incompletion on 4th and short at the CPA 18. They would finally get on the board on the ensuing drive, taking advantage of the short field as Garcia capped a 60-yard drive with an 8-yard strike to Johnston as the two teams entered the locker room tied at the half.
The game threatened to get out of reach early in the 3rdquarter, only for a 75-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to get called back for an illegal player down field.
Through the aid of a stellar defense—anchored by Ben Severance (10.5 tackles) and the brilliant pass rush of Avery Miller (6.5 tackles, 1 sack) and Reggie Grimes II (3.5 tackles, 1 sack)—Ravenwood’s offense was given plenty of chances to take and extend the lead. The Raptors would do just that on its next two drives, first going 74 yards in just 2:11 and resulting in a 48-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to Johnston to go ahead 14-7.
A 3-and-out by the Lions gave Ravenwood the chance to add to its lead, riding the reliable leg of kicker Luke Akers who drilled a 45-yard field goal to put the Raptors up 17-7 late in the 3rd quarter. CPA’s defense kept them in the game as long as it could, but its offense—despite enjoying an advantage in time of possession (26:24 to 21:36)—came up empty on its final three drives.
Still, there was plenty to take away for the Lions to remain optimistic of greater glory in the immediate future.
“It’s been the story this season,” noted CPA head coach Ingle Martin. “Our non-conference schedule was intentionally tough, but (Thursday’s) game was the last of that run. Every game counts from here on out. Our boys are fired up and ready to make this run.”
An insurance touchdown late in the 4th quarter—Garcia connecting with Tony Rice (85 all purpose yards) on a 3-yard pass—helped deliver a second straight win for Ravenwood, who advances to 6-1 on the season.
It also capped a three-game road trip, as the Raptors finally head home for next Friday’s non-conference matchup versus Smyrna and with its head coach back at the helm.
“Those kids, they’re experienced,” noted Erlod of the senior-heavy squad who’ve managed to soldier on even in Daniels’ absence. “They’ve played a lot of games, and it showed tonight.”
CPA (2-6) will end the 2019 season 0-4 in non-conference play but still undefeated in games that matter relating to the postseason. The Lions are still 2-0 in II-AA play, although they will hit the road for its final two games of the season beginning with next Friday’s matchup with Goodpasture Academy.
Photo by Deb Scally.