Rocky River ends season with playoff loss

The Rocky Ravens lost 40-14 to the Greensboro Page Pirates last Friday night in the first round of the North Carolina State 4AA football playoffs.

“I’m so proud of this team and especially the seniors,” Head Coach Jason Fowler said. “These seniors all came from other schools, not by their choice, and helped start this team and this program. They’ve been through a lot, andlesserkids would’ve quit, but they stuck it out, and I’m proud of them.”

Rocky River came into the game as the twelfth seed in the 16-team playoff format, while Page was the fifth seed.

As the lower seed, Page was the host team. The winner of this game would go on to play the winner of the E. Forsythe/Providence game in the second round.

The game was played on even terms early on. The teams traded punts in the first quarter. Rocky River attempted some long passes, but they were unsuccessful. The teams were able to move the ball between the 30 yard lines, but the defenses would stiffen and force the punt teams onto the field. Page forced the first turnover of the game just before the end of the first quarter.

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Rocky River falls flat in loss to Myers Park on senior night

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. Continue reading

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Rocky River blasts South Meck 42-0 in homecoming win

The Rocky River Ravens celebrated Spirit Week and Homecoming with a solid 42-0 win over South Meck Sabre squad last Friday night. This was the third conference game for both teams.

The game was controlled by both defenses in the first quarter. The Sabres had a bad handoff exchange and Safety Lamar Hood tackled the runner in the end zone which resulted in a safety for the Ravens. The Ravens had given up safeties in the previous two games, so being on the receiving end was a welcome change. Neither team could get any traction on offense, and the quarter ended with Rocky River leading, but by the slimmest of margins, 2-0.

“South really came out ready to play tonight. They punched us in the mouth and were the more physical team in the first quarter,” said Head Coach Jason Fowler.

The teams continued to trade punts when the Ravens got a break. A punt was mishandled by South Meck and recovered by Rocky River at the Sabres’ three yard line.

Before the next play could be run, lightening was seen in the area and the officials sent the teams to the locker rooms for a mandatory postponement of 30 minutes. Coach Fowler thinks the stoppage of play may have helped his team.

“We were able to make some adjustments when that happened, and it had a positive effect,” says Fowler.

Once play resumed quarterback Andre Rice ran in from the three yard line and just like that, with three and a half minutes left in the half, the Ravens led 9-0. The point after touchdown was converted by kicker Aaron Roman who was injured two games ago against Providence.

“It’s good to have Aaron back,” coach Jason Fowler said. It helps tremendously to have a consistent kicker.”

The second quarter ended with Rocky River leading 9-0. The defense was solid in the half, al- lowing only four first downs. They gave up one long run of 66 yards, but otherwise kept the Sabres in check.

Newly crowned Homecoming Queen Vanessa Perez saw the Ravens explode in the second half. The Ravens’ first drive of the half ended in a touchdown. Offensive Coordinator Mark Harmon called a wide receiver pass and it worked to perfection. Rice pitched to wide receiver Aaron Cole who started to run a sweep to the right side, stopped and threw to a wide open Brandon Harris behind the defense for a 26-yard score. This is the second consecutive week that exact play resulted in a touchdown, having worked against Butler last week. The score was now 15-0. Rocky River forced another South Meck punt and thus began the Naquan Evans show. He took the punt on a hop at the 28-yard line and slalomed his way through the Sabres’ punt team for a 72-yard score. With the extra point the score was suddenly 22-0. After another South Meck punt the Ravens began to impose their will offensively. The drive methodically moved the ball down the field, mixing the run and the pass. This was easily their best drive of the night, taking six minutes off the clock and spanning the third and fourth quarters. The drive started at their own 24-yard line and ended in another Rice run for a touchdown.

“We were trying to run a little more in the second half,” coach Fowler explained. We were using our short passing game in the first half basically as our running game. In the second half, their defense loosened up some and we were able to run more.” The score was now 29-0 and the game appeared out of reach for South Meck, but Rocky River was not done yet.

South Meck was forced to punt yet again. They made the mistake of kicking it to senior Naquan Evans, again, who promptly took it to the house. This time the touchdown was only 65 yards. Special teams were important according to Coach Fowler, “The Special Teams were big tonight. We definitely won the Special Teams battle tonight and that really helped out.”

With the score now 35- 0, many of the Ravens’ reserves got a chance to show what they could do. Sophomore quarterback Christian Allen-Brown took control of the offense on the Ravens’ last scoring drive. Freshman running back Rashaad Brannon showed he could have an impact on the team in coming years as he capped off the scoring with a 12- yard run. The point after touchdown ended the scoring for the night at 42-0.

 

Team Notes

The Ravens’ offense looked spotty for most of the first half.

“We didn’t match their intensity in the first half,” Offensive Coordinator Harmon said. “I’m proud of our guys; they played their game in the second half.”

Senior Naquan Evans put on a show. Two punt returns for touchdowns, and he also added an interception, all in the second half. “I’ve been preparing for a game like this, he said. I scored a couple of touchdowns last year, but this was the best game of my career so far. The defense was keeping us in the game early while the offense struggled. We just needed a spark and I’m glad I was able to help the team win.”

The Ravens’ defense had their third shutout of the season. Average opponents scoring in the Ravens’ five wins: just over seven points per game.

Penalties, a problem for Rocky River all season, were not a factor in this game.

The Ravens had no turnovers while forcing two from S. Mecklenburg.

Continuing a theme for this season, this was Rocky River’s first victory over S. Mecklenburg in football, having lost the previous two years.

 

Coming up

Rocky River (5-2, 2-1) at East Meck (0-7, 0-3) Friday, 7 pm

Rocky River played E. Mecklenburg last year, winning 35-0.

Many may know Head Coach Fowler came to Rocky River from E. Mecklenburg, where he was the Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator.

“I spent six years at E. Mecklenburg before coming to Rocky River. They gave me my first big break in coaching. I still have a lot of good friends over there, and I know some of their players. It’s gonna be good to go there and see some familiar faces, but we’re going there to win a ball game.”

About the Eagles team, “They’re a physical team and we’ll get their best game,” Coach Fowler said. “We need to continue to win to get where we want to go.”

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Raven seniors stand tall

Think about it. You are beginning a new high school. What do you do? Sports are important to a school, but where do the athletes come from? Will they be any good? Will they want to play for your school? These are questions with no answers, not at first.

So this is the grand experiment in 2010, and the Rocky River Ravens football team was the biggest petri dish at Rocky River High School.

 

A little history

At the start of the 2010 school year, some things were obvious for the football team. For example, all of the players trying out for the team were from another high school. The current seniors were sophomores then. Christian Irias and B-y Sandiemanie came from Butler High School, and Brandon Harris and Sidney Lawson were from Independence High School. Initially, was anybody on the team happy to change schools? “No,” was the unanimous response.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Lawson said, “I played as a freshman at Independence then had to come here and start all over.”

 

The first year

Of course there were going to be growing pains. Beginning anything from scratch is difficult. Imagine starting a football team. The logistics of obtaining equipment, fields, and schedules was daunting at times.

“The field wasn’t ready when we started practice in June. We practiced at an elementary school,” says Sandiemanie.

“We couldn’t lift weights that first year either,” says Harris. “The weight room wasn’t ready until the second year, so we tried to work out when we could, either individually or in groups. I think that probably put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Most of the players came from successful programs. They were used to winning. Now they were looking at enemy faces in the huddle. Trust was an issue the first year.

“These were guys we knew, but we knew them from the other teams they played on,” Irias said. “It was hard, mentally, to feel comfortable, because we didn’t really know each other yet. At least not well enough to gel as a team. Looking back I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, it just took time. Predictably perhaps, that first year ended with a team record of 0-11.”

 

Year two

By the beginning of the 2011 season, the team began to feel more comfortable with each other.

“The first year you would see T-shirts and stuff with the logos from the other schools, the second year not as much,” says Sandiemanie.

This was the year the team was able to lift weights together in their own weight room. Head Coach Jason Fowler feels this has been important to team building.

In 2010, the players came from different schools, and were accustomed to different offensive and defensive plays and schemes. But by 2011, the team had shaken off the newness and began to embrace the Ravens’ way of playing football as taught by Coach Fowler and his staff.

“At our other schools, they were more established and it was hard to get no- ticed,” says Harris. “But being here we had a chance to show what we could do. That was one advantage.” In year two, the record improved to 2- 9.

 

Year three

Those young pups who were sophomores in 2010 are now seniors. They’ve been through a lot, as football players and as young men. They’ve been through things their friends at their former schools have not had to endure.

“It was humbling to see those other schools have success while we struggled,” says Lawson. “But we tried to see the bigger picture.”

Now the younger players on the team look up to the seniors.

“We want to show them how it goes,” Irias added. “We want to leave a legacy as a successful team. Our goal has always been to get to the playoffs and then see what happens. That goal is within our reach this year if we keep improving and playing like we’re capable of playing.”

What about the school as a whole?

“The school is behind us now,” says Lawson. “We don’t see other school’s T-shirts anymore, just ours.”

More than halfway through the season, the team has already more than doubled its previous win total. The overall record this year is 5-2. The team has been competitive, even in its two losses. All of its remaining games are winnable. That is a far cry from where the team was about 30 months ago.

The last sentence on this season has yet to be written, but this much can be said—this is not a collection of players from other teams. This team is now the Rocky River Ravens.

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