The Rocky River Ravens lost 36-13 to the Myers Park Mustangs last Friday night in the final regular season game for both. The game was important for both teams. Myers Park needed a win to qualify for the playoffs, while a win for Rocky River could help improve their playoff seeding. Unfortunately for the Ravens, this was not their night.
From the outset, the Mustangs imposed their will on the Ravens. Their first possession of the night ended with a touchdown pass from quarterback Ross Jeffries to wide receiver Zavon Martin. Adding to the insult of such an easy drive, Myers Park surprised the Ravens and successfully converted a two-point try, making the score 8-0.
Rocky River tried to make something happen on their next drive, stringing together a couple first downs, but eventually settled for a punt back to Myers Park. That was a big mistake. Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Mustangs ran the ball straight down the field. Riding their talented sophomore running back, Jaquavion Alexander, the Mustangs methodically moved the chains. The drive was capped off by Alexander scoring, untouched, from 21 yards out. Following the PAT, the Ravens were trailing 15-0. Rocky River showed some fight on their next offensive possession. The Ravens opened up the offense, with senior quarterback Andre Rice hitting some big pass plays, capped off by a pass to senior wide receiver Brandon Harris for a touchdown, making the score 15-7.
The game looked like it could be turning around when the Ravens’ senior cornerback Naquan Evans intercepted a Myers Park pass and returned it to the Mustangs’ 21-yard line. On the very first play after taking possession, the Ravens looked to capitalize. They attempted a trick play, a flea flicker pass. Myers Park was not fooled and intercepted Rice’s pass in the end zone. That interception really seemed to take the wind out of the entire team, and the crowd. The Ravens were down only one score, but it seemed like more.
Myers Park took the next drive in for a touchdown as well this time, mixing the run and pass effectively. The Ravens’ defense was definitely on their heels.
After the Ravens went three and out on their last possession of the half, Myers Park drove for another touchdown. The half ended with the Mustangs leading 29-7.
The second half was really an exercise in running out the clock. Myers Park kept the ball on the ground to keep the clock moving, and Rocky River was trying to do what it could to make a dent in the Mustangs’ imposing defense. Each team scored a touchdown in the half, and the game ended with Myers Park winning 36-13.
“This was a wakeup call for us tonight,” Head Coach Jason Fowler said after the game. “I think we got caught looking ahead a little bit, but I’m not gonna say anything negative about Myers Park. We got beat by a very good football team tonight. We couldn’t stop them on defense, and they dared us to do some things on offense which we didn’t execute. Once we got down three scores we had to abandon a lot of our game plan.
The Ravens’ defense, which has four shutouts to its credit this season, has been largely ineffective the last few games leading up to the playoffs. This can be partially attributed to some injuries late in the season, but the defense needs to figure something out if it wants to advance in the playoffs.
Especially concerning is the run defense, which has given up big numbers in the first halves of recent games.
Penalties have again be- come a problem for Rocky River.
“We drove down to the 20-yard line early in the second half and maybe could have made it a game with a touchdown but then penalties pushed us
back to midfield,” Coach Fowler said. “We can’t do that against good teams, and definitely not in the playoffs.”
“I’m not sure what hap- pened this week,” Coach Fowler said. “We had a good week of practice; it just didn’t carry over into the game.”
First Round Playoffs Rocky River (7-4, 4-3) at Page Pirates (6-4, 6-0)
Friday, 7:30 pm Pirates Stadium,
Greensboro Rocky River finished in a three-way tie for third in their conference with Myers Park and Providence High Schools. All three schools qualified for the playoffs. Myers Park is the #10 seed, Rocky River the #12 seed, and Providence the #15 seed.
The regular season ended
with a thud, but keep in mind, the Ravens qualified for the playoffs for the first time in their three-year history.
Out of the Ravens’ 11 games, they have played six teams that qualified for the upcoming playoffs. Their record against those teams is two wins and four losses.
For those unfamiliar with the Page Pirates, they are located in Greensboro and are the reigning 4AA state champions. Last year, they defeated Butler H.S. and Mallard Creek H.S. (both powerhouses from the Charlotte area) in consecutive weeks before beating Garner HS in the championship game.
Page opened this season with four straight non- conference losses before running the table in their own conference, averaging 38 points per game in the process.