MINT HILL, NC – The Rocky River Ravens earned their first victory of the season with a hard-fought 34-14 win in a non-conference football game with Sun Valley from Monroe, North Carolina.
There was no doubt the Ravens coaching staff made several noticeable adjustments after suffering 3 straight losses to open the season.
The first adjustment offensively was the surprise decision to start junior Trevion Graham at QB who has limited game experience at the helm over senior Khalil Archie who has struggled and been inconsistent this season. The decision lasted a quarter, as Graham was unable to move the offense and missed his target on a few passes. However, to be fair some of the passes should have been caught by the wide receivers and running backs. Even though Graham is 6’4″ and 235 pounds, he is not as quick, or as elusive as Archie at 6′ 0″ and 165 pounds.
Other noticeable changes were in the play selection which was more aggressive, especially inside the red zone, and after scoring a touchdown it appeared that more 2 point conversion plays were added to the game plan.
Finally, the defense played very solid and made some big plays that led to two touchdowns. As a unit, the defense had more composure and focus. They did not make any major mental mistakes that would come back to bite them as in the previous three contests. They applied pressure on the QB with 4 sacks, and did a god job in closing down the running game.
In the first quarter, the teams seem to spar like two heavy-weight boxers trying to test each other with a few hard blows. However, with under 5 minutes remaining Spartans QB Brady Turriff would connect with a wide receiver to score on a eight-yard pass reception. The PAT kick was clear and true putting Sun Valley up 7-0.
The Ravens bounced back in the second quarter with two scores of their own. Quarterback Khalil Archie on third down would connect with Antwoine Norris for an 11 yard gain. Then again on a 3rd and 5 Archie would find Rod Stafford for a 14 yard touchdown making the score 7-6. The 2-point conversion appeared good but was called back. The second attempt failed and the Spartans maintained a slim 1 point margin.
After the kickoff, Sun Valley began to put together a good-looking drive. However, when they tried to go deep, Ravens defensive back Jaylon Stringfellow would step up pick off a pass on his own 38-yard line, weave through some traffic, find an opening and sprint 62 yards into the end zone to give the home team their first lead. The 2 point conversion was good when Archie would score on an end-around untouched making the score 14-7 Ravens.
In the second half with 4:12 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Rashaad McCollum would recover a fumble at midfield. After a 4 yard loss, and an incomplete pass. Ravens QB Archie would send a beautifully thrown pass to Antwione Norris for a 39-yard reception. Then later in the drive, Archie would score on a QB keeper at 2:49 making the score 20-7. The 2-point conversion failed when Archie sailed a high pass.
Suddenly, moving in reverse the Spartans are pinned deep inside the 10 with 55 seconds in the quarter. They are forced to put from the end zone, an errant snap, the punter cannot handle cleanly and fumbles the ball, Jaylon Stringfellow bounces on the loose ball for the Ravens touchdown extending the lead to 26-7. The Ravens would add another score with 2:24 remaining in the football game to make the score 34-7 with the 2 point conversion being good.
With 1:01 left in the contest, the Spartans would score and add the PAT to make it a 34-14 football game. They would attempt an onside kick, but it was recovered by the Ravens who would run out the clock.
“A great team win, our defense is carrying us as we establish our offensive identity,” said Head Football Coach, Orlando Gray.
The Ravens will hit the road next week to play an important conference game against East Mecklenburg on Friday night. This game is a must-win if Rocky River is going to be a factor for the remainder of the season.