One of the offseason priorities for Cane Ridge head coach Eddie Woods was changing the culture of the Ravens’ football program. He was weary of his team faltering when faced with adversity.
His team obviously took the lesson to heart, as Pearl-Cohn’s furious comeback from two scores down faded away and through the uprights with Shivan Abdullah’s 39-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the visiting Ravens a 17-14 win on opening night.
“The first thing you want to know about your team is will they fight through adversity,” Woods said. “When they scored, we didn’t flinch. We didn’t flinch, and that shows a lot for our team that really didn’t have a great culture last year to pull off a win against a good team like (Pearl-Cohn).”
“Coach came in with a great game plan,” said Abdullah, who completed 11-of-15 passes for 156 yards. “We just needed to trust in him and believe in our players and execute every play. We slowed down a little bit, but we still had each other’s back and brought each other back up.”
After both teams struggled early on, the Ravens (1-0) managed to get on the board first as Byron Davis found the edge on a wide receiver screen and outraced everyone for a 48-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the Raven defense held Firebird quarterback Keyshawn Tarleton to 3-of-11 passing for 50 yards and minus-1 yards on the ground.
With time winding/ down in the first half, Abdullah took a three-step drop, pumped, and lofted a pass high in the endzone where only tight end Jaylon Johnson could get to it. Johnson, reaching as far up as his 6-foot-4 frame would allow, snagged the ball one-handed in the back of the endzone.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve never had that feeling before,” beamed Johnson, recalling his circus catch. “I was star-struck when it happened … It’s probably going to be the catch of the year.”
The Firebirds (0-1) appeared ready to cut the gap when Malachi Cromwell broke off a long run down the left sideline, but while fighting for extra yardage, he was held up and the ball was stripped by Travell Howard. Cromwell finished with 111 rushing yards.
Pearl-Cohn did get on the board early in the second half, using a quickened offensive pace and gashing the Raven defense for several chunk plays. Cromwell busted in the end zone from a yard out with 8:37 left in the third to cut Cane Ridge’s lead to 14-6.
“The third quarter they made some adjustments they sped up. We couldn’t get the defensive calls in,” Woods explained. “We had to adjust to that. But once we adjusted to that, the guys took the adjustment. For us to hold them
A scary moment occurred midway through the third quarter when Pearl-Cohn head coach Tony Brunetti took a shot when a play went outside the boundary. However, after several minutes and some first aid, Brunetti was back up and coaching, though in obvious discomfort with a mask covering the facial injury he had received.
Later in the third, Javion Kinnard swept outside and sped into the endzone for 11 of his 91 yards, and Tarleton’s scramble to the endzone on the two-point conversion knotted the game at 14 with 2:37 left in the period.
Both defenses held things there prior to Cane Ridge’s final drive which began with two minutes remaining in regulation. The Ravens converted a fourth-and-long to keep the drive going on a pass from Abdullah to put their kicker – himself – in field goal range, where he knocked the go-ahead points through with one second to play.
“The coaches came to me and said, ‘Do you think you can hit it?’ And I was like, ‘let’s go,’ Abdullah said. “My teammates believed in me, my coaches believed in me, and I believed in myself and that’s all that matters.”
Next week Cane Ridge travels to Antioch to open region play, and Pearl-Cohn visits Montgomery Bell Academy.