By Kevin Baker
The Rocky River Ravens overcame adversity and defeated the Providence High School Panthers at home last Friday night 23-25. The game was the conference opener for both teams.
The Ravens offense came out flying, scoring on their first possession. Quarterback Andre Rice hit Brandon Harris from 27 yards out. Unfortunately, kicker Aaron Roman was injured while converting the point after touchdown.
The defense was doing its part, coming up with two turnovers and holding the Panthers on downs once, keeping the offense in good field position. The Ravens took advantage with another Rice to Harris touchdown pass later in the first quarter and running back Deron Davis chipping in with a five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Ravens were forced to try two-point conversions for the rest of the game due to Roman’s injury. Midway through the second quarter, the Ravens looked to be cruising. Providence was not to go away quietly on this night.
Immediately after Davis’ touchdown made the score 0-19, the Panthers began to swing the momentum in their favor. Their quarterback Austin Proehl, son of former Carolina Panther Ricky Proehl, scored on a nifty 29-yard run making the score 7-19. Cornerback Lamar Hood intercepted a Proehl pass at the Ravens’ two-yard line with two minutes left in the half, keeping the score at 7-19 at halftime.
Providence kept the pressure on in the second half. Kick returner Sidney Lawson’s second half kickoff return of 97 yards for a touchdown was called back due to penalty, and that seemed to affect the Ravens. The penalty put the offense on their own four yard line, and a mishandled shotgun snap out of the end zone resulted in a safety for Providence and made the score 9-19. The Raven’s ensuing kickoff was returned 69 yards for a touchdown, and with the extra point, it was a ballgame at 16-19.
Even though the Ravens still led by three points, there was not a feeling of confidence neither in the stadium nor on the sidelines. The defense was trying to hold on while the offense tried to get their mojo back. The quarter ended with the score still at 16-19.
Providence continued to apply pressure in the fourth quarter. Proehl scored on another 29-yard run with 11 minutes remaining and made the score 23-19. The Panthers led for the first time. The two teams exchanged punts a few times when Rocky River started their last meaningful drive at their own 44-yard line with less than five minutes remaining. A first down moved the ball to the Panthers’ 37. Three more plays left fourth and seven at the 34.
Everybody knew this was the game. Rice dropped back, saw his favorite receiver, and Brandon Harris came through. Harris made the catch, eluded a defender at about the 15-yard line and fought his way to the goal line. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but the Ravens had retaken the lead at 23-25. There were still over two minutes left on the clock, but Providence could do nothing with it, and the Ravens won a hard-fought victory.
Brandon Harris explained after the game, “I practice hard so I can make the tough plays when my team needs them. When we lost some key players, I knew the rest of us had to step up and make plays, and we did it tonight.”
Analyzing Rocky River’s last touchdown, Coach Jason Fowler said, “We were fortunate we caught them in the right defense, Andre made the right read, and Brandon made a heck of a play.”
“My hat’s off to Providence,” Coach Fowler said, “we knew we’d be in a dogfight. We knew Providence was well coached, and they fight hard, and they did that tonight. I’m so proud of our kids. This is the first time in our three years that we’ve battled through adversity and been able to find a way to win. I feel like we’re really starting to grow as a team. We still have a hard time putting teams away, but that’s part of the growing process. When you let a good team like Providence stay in the game, bad things are going to happen, but like I said, we fought through.”
On the added attention his team is receiving, “We’ve won some games, and so we’re getting some publicity, and that’s good, but we really have a long way to go. We have to continue to work hard and try to cut down on some of the penalties and turnovers.”
The Raven’s offense looked smooth in the first quarter and the last quarter. The middle quarters were plagued by turnovers and penalties.
Starting tailback Deron Davis limped off the field in the second quarter, with an apparent ankle injury.
After the game Coach Fowler said, “Deron has an ankle sprain. We taped him up and he tried to play in the second half. As a team leader, Deron came to the coaches and said he couldn’t go, and he wasn’t being effective. James House came in for him and did a great job for us in the second half.”
On the loss of kicker Roman, “It’s really tough when you lose your kicker. You can’t find many of those around. He’s probably out a couple of weeks, so we have to find a way to get it done.”
This game was Rocky River’s first victory over Providence in football, having lost the previous two years.
Rocky River (4-1) at Butler (4-0)
Friday at 7 pm
Butler defeated Rocky River last year, 55-6 and is ranked 16th in the nation by Maxpreps.com.
Butler is a perennial state title contender, as Coach Fowler explained, “Butler is the best team in the state. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Coach Fowler on whether his Ravens can compete with Butler, “We are going to Butler with the mentality that we can win the ballgame. Coach Hale does a great job, but we’re going to play hard to the last whistle and see how it goes.”
Butler has three players headed to Division One schools (star ranking according to Scout.com): three star wide receiver Uriah Lemay will join his brother Christian at Georgia University; two star cornerback David Moore is headed to Ball State; and three star cornerback Channing Stribling will play at Michigan.
Both teams come into the game 1-0 in the Southwestern 4A Conference.
Butler defeated Myers Park last week 49-6.