Keeping pace with Oakland is no easy task, and while Ravenwood stayed within striking distance of the visiting Patriots most of Friday evening, the two-time defending Class 6A champions had a little more juice in the second half.
After a first half that saw the teams all square, the Patriots shut out the Raptors in the third quarter and that proved to be the difference in Oakland’s 45-31 victory to run its win streak to 34 consecutive games.
However, two plays near halftime may have provided the tipping point. With the Patriots in their own end and less than 30 seconds left in the half, Kade Hewitt found TT Hill for a 73-yard gain down to the Raptors’ 2-yard line. After a timeout, Oakland chose to play for a game-tying touchdown and Hewitt found the end zone from three yards out as time expired.
“We just needed one big play and our defense held them to a stop,” Hewitt said. “(The pass to Hill) was exactly what we needed.”
It was one of those choices Oakland head coach Kevin Creasy made that worked on Friday.
“We ran power off-tackle, thinking maybe we can just run the clock out and we decided to take a shot, TT makes a play and it’s players making plays that make the coaches look smart,” Creasy said. “If that gets picked and it’s a touchdown the other way, it makes me look real dumb. But you’ve got to have faith in a couple of guys and that’s the two we leaned on tonight.”
Hewitt was 6-of-10 for 184 yards and a touchdown through the air and added 13 carries for 97 yards, but the number might have felt bigger given the number of key plays he made.
“He got turned loose against with his legs (Madison Ridgeland Academy) – a heck of a team, probably going to win their fourth straight state championship in Mississippi,” Creasy said. “But tonight, it was his arm and his legs, and his leadership. He made a couple of plays he was disappointed in himself with, but he took full responsibility and held himself accountable. People respond to that. People that hold themselves accountable when things aren’t going their way – I think a lot of respect’s given to those kinds of guys and that’s the kind of leaders you want on your team.”
Hewitt found Khalil James for his lone passing touchdown, a 30-yarder on fourth-and-12 that put the Patriots up 38-24 and kept them ahead for good.
Hill added two touchdown runs, with a 31-yarder in the first quarter and an 8-yarder in the third.
On the other side, Chris Parson did everything he could to keep Ravenwood within reach, accounting for 352 yards (238 passing, 114 rushing).
His two first-half touchdown runs helped give the Raptors a 24-17 lead before Oakland’s late surge before halftime.
“First of all, give credit to Chris Parson,” Hewitt said. “He had an outstanding game. He’s a heck of a player and he’s going to go do big things at the next level.”
Parson rushed 17 times for his 114 yards, escaping several tight situations in the backfield to extend plays.
“He’s Chris Parson, right? That’s what he does,” Ravenwood head coach Will Hester said. “He’s a great football player and he had a great night tonight. I felt like he did some really good stuff and I felt like his teammates did some really good things.”
Carter Pace scored twice for the Raptors on runs of five and eight yards for the other Ravenwood touchdowns.
“We had a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Hester said. “I think there’s a lot of people out there that might have doubted us a little more than we doubted ourselves. We knew we would be ready to play and our kids answered the bell. Did we make enough plays to win? Not this time, but if we do what we need to do, there may be a rematch in the future.”
Special teams set up Oakland’s first score and then helped keep the lead in the Patriots’ favor in the fourth quarter when Jacob Taylor turned over a 75-yard punt that was downed inside the Raptors’ 5-yard line. Although Ravenwood’s offense was able to get near midfield, the drive stalled and Oakland’s CJ Puckett capped the next Patriot drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to seal things.
Ravenwood hosts Brentwood in its annual “Battle of the Woods” rivalry game on Friday, while Oakland travels to Siegel for a Region 4-6A contest.