STORY BY JAKE DONOVÁN | PHOTO BY STEVE WHEELER
Junior quarterback Brian Garcia threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns in engineering yet another come-from-behind road win for his Ravenwood Raptors.
The latest came in a 24-20 victory over the hosting Franklin Rebels in a thriller Friday evening at Franklin High School’s Howard Gamble Stadium.
Garcia connected on TD strikes to three different receivers, none bigger the 42-yard strike to Shane Craig (4 receptions, 104 yds., 1 TD) in capping an 80-yard drive to rally the Raptors to victory, its third straight as the visiting squad.
Andrew Mason (7 rec., 62 yds., 1 TD) and Evan Coleman (2 rec., 41 yds., 1 TD) also found the end zone for the Raptors (3-0). Franklin HS stud running back Matt Gaca racked up 147 yards of total offense, but was kept out of the end zone. Quarterback Joshua Nichols (7-24, 69 yds., 1 INT, 1 rush TD) and Rashad Jenkins both provided 1-yard touchdown runs for Franklin (1-2), whose offense went stone cold in the second half of its home opener.
“The bottom line is, we just left too many points on the field,” Franklin head coach Donnie Webb told the Home Page. “We were fortunate to get that early lead, but we let too many opportunities get by us, especially in that second half. That’s on me, I should’ve done a better job in coaching up these young men tonight, especially when we faced adversity.”
The Rebels jumped out to an early lead, though with a dash of luck as both teams traded interceptions and penalties in an ugly first quarter of play. Back-to-back penalties on the Raptors defense gave the Rebels a 1st and goal at the 1 yard line, with Jenkins taking it to the house just two plays later on the game’s first score.
Ravenwood answered right back, advancing through its running game along with a pair of costly personal fouls during the drive on the Rebels defense, who conceded 80 yards in penalties just in the first half.
The sequence allowed Garcia to set up his first TD pass of the night, a 28-yard end zone strike to Coleman who even managed to fight through defensive pass interference to reel it in.
Franklin’s defense picked up the pace, forcing back-to-back three-and-out stops which the offense converted into 10 unanswered points and a 17-7 lead.
Ravenwood’s last gasp drive towards the end of the first half ended with a 45-yard field goal off the foot of kicker/punter Luke Ayers to pull the Raptors within seven, as well as providing a much-needed sideline spark.
“That long field goal might’ve been the most clutch moment of the night,” noted Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels. “That was no chip shot. Luke drove that thing and really gave us a chance to fight our way back into the game.”
Fighting back is the only way the Raptors have known how to play football this season. They overcame a massive deficit to beat Centennial in a 35-28 thriller on the road in Week One, followed by a 21-17 nail biter over hosting Siegel last Friday.
Not only did they do it again in hostile territory on this particular evening but with the game’s biggest momentum shift coming on a drive that saw Ravenwood avoid a potential dagger.
A 70-yard strike from Garcia to Mason was called back due to holding, but that hardly contained the Raptors. Two plays later, that same duo connected on a 30-yard catch and sprint to produce a 17-17 tie midway through the 3rd quarter.
“Coach just told us at halftime to keep our heads, reminding us that we’ve been here before,” said Garcia, who has already thrown eight touchdown passes and more than 800 passing yards in just three games this young season.
Franklin managed just three second-half points, coming on a 15 yard field goal by Alex Cundall early in the 4th quarter. The chip shot almost seemed like a consolation prize following a lengthy drive that include two 4th down conversions by the Rebels offense.
“Those were moments where – after the defense did its job – we had a chance to really make a statement, but just couldn’t find a way to score touchdowns,” said Webb.
The field goal gave the Rebels a 20-17 lead, but also just enough room for Garcia and the Raptors to once again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The 80-yard game winning drive took more than three minutes off the clock, with its defense coming up big in separate stops that barely saw the Rebels move the chains.
One last ray of hope for Franklin came in the form of a huge midfield stop on third down and getting the ball back on its own 20 with 1:03 to go. The rally was for naught, as Nichols and his receivers went 0-4 on the drive in turning the ball over on downs.
Garcia took a knee to run out the clock and, once the scoreboard finally read 0:00, catch his breath.
“It definitely says a lot about our team that we keep winning like this,” Garcia said of his squad that has won its three games by a mere 15 points. “These games are a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t mind winning one by two touchdowns.”
The schedule certainly doesn’t get any easier for the Raptors, but they at least get its first taste of home cooking. Ravenwood will host fellow unbeaten Page High School next Friday, the first of four-straight home games.
Meanwhile, the Rebels hit the road as they travel to McGavock High School (1-2) next weekend before returning home for three straight home games.
Below is a slideshow of photos from photographer Steve Wheeler.