Kade Harrison Hauls in two touchdowns to lead Vikings to overtime victory
RAVENSWOOD - The night was crisp with a slight breeze and the atmosphere was already electric at 6 p.m. strolling through Flinn Field. The field's natural surface was in surprisingly good condition considering the recent weather conditions which is a tribute to the Red Devil staff and Mother Nature's preference for consistent winds to help dry the surface.
The story of this game could be summed up in a sentence. Ripley's Nathan Tucker blocked a Mason Carte extra point attempt in overtime and Ripley survived one of the most competitive battles for the Hatchet in the history of the rivalry game, 17-16.
In a game that featured more flags than an Olympic ceremony (20 for Ripley and six for Ravenswood), Ripley simply made one more play than the Red Devils on this night.
Ripley (5-5) looked to put an end to the two-year stranglehold that Ravenswood has had on the coveted Hatchet that began with a 35-10 loss in 2010 and to an extent, get revenge for a 48-14 beat down in 2011 on their own Death Valley turf.
Coach Jimmy Frashier is 5-5 in the Hatchet Game during his decade long run as Viking head coach.
Ravenswood (2-8) looked to extend this streak and put an end to another streak in the form of a losing one. The Red Devils came into the game having dropped seven in a row.
Both teams were a combined six plays away from having a drastically different season and for the Vikings, likely would have sent them to the playoffs in 2012.
After a rather hard-hitting opening quarter, both teams scored on the legs of their kickers. The Red Devils struck first on their opening drive in the form of a rather impressive 42-yard field goal giving Ravenswood a quick lead at 3-0.
The Vikings struck back. After an 80-yard, 12 play drive stalled on Red Devil real estate, Viking junior booter Easton Berry nailed a 27-yard field goal of his-own to knot the score at 3-3 with 3:11 to go in the quarter.
After a 25-yard punt from Ravenswood's Nathan Cunningham, Ripley hit paydirt on what was the prettiest offensive play of the evening.
Viking quarterback Jake Martin rolled right and launched a laser down the Viking sideline for wide receiver Kade Harrison. Harrison came back for the ball, out-jumped a defender for possession and raced 57 yards to the end-zone.
Berry's extra point made it 10-7 Vikings.
Ravenswood pounded the ball with shifty tailback Devon Crews, who is also a stand-out slugger for the Red Devil baseball team. Crews, quarterback Heath Burgess and fellow running back Rhys Jelich chewed up precious clock and kept the time of possession close as Ripley managed to barely edge the Red Devils 31:12 to 28:43.
"We definitely thought we could utilize Devon's skills in this game. Ripley has some athletes and we really wanted to keep that offense off of the field as much as possible. We have been a run first team all season and there was no need to change that now," said Red Devil coach Mick Price.
Both teams exchanged turnovers and went into the half with Ripley leading, 10-3.
At the half, coach Frashier had a message for his team as he addressed them in the locker room.
"It's pretty simple guys. We have played nine games. You need to execute what we have worked on and finish these guys off."
The third period was scoreless as both defenses brought their lunch pails to the field in the second half.
Both teams moved the ball between the thirties but the defenses came up with big plays in this period that stalled potential scoring threats. The Red Devils did miss on a field goal attempt from inside the 25-yard line.
Quarterbacks Burgess and Martin showed their toughness in designed runs and on busted plays that they turned into positive yards.
Early in the fourth, Ripley blocked a Red Devil punt and had possession inside the 10-yard line. After an eight-yard pass to Viking wide-out Tyler Kidd was called back on a holding call, Ripley took a sack and the scoring opportunity was thwarted.
With 5:53 left in the fourth, Devon Crews struck again. Taking the handoff on a counter play to the weak side, Crews fought off two Viking defenders on his way to a 54-yard scamper to the end zone that that gave Ravenswood the opportunity to tie the game with an extra point or take the lead on a two-point conversion.
With nearly six minutes of football left to play, the Red Devils opted to trust their defense and the trusted leg of Carte, who nailed the point after and the game was tied at 10-10.
With Ripley driving at mid-field and less than a minute to go, Red Devil defensive end Connor Jelich hit Viking quarterback Martin near the sideline just as the ball was released from his hand. It was as hard a hit as any in the game and Martin bounced back to his feet to take the field again after gathering himself for a brief moment.
Coach Price acknowledged the physicality of the game.
"Both of these teams fought hard and hit hard. It was a physical game as you would expect. We knew we were in for a fight and both teams were prepared for this game. Coach Frashier has surrounded himself with quality coaches but I also knew our staff would get our kids ready to play. Anything can happen in this game regardless of statistics, records and home field advantage."
After a long pass from Ripley failed to connect, the teams headed to overtime to settle this score.
Ravenswood won the toss and elected to defend first. After a run from Viking tailback Tyler Pittenger netted about a yard and a Jake Martin run for positive yardage, Kade Harrison struck again (see photo top).
The 6-3 wide receiver ran a beautiful fade route to the corner and Martin feathered the pass over a Red Devil cornerback for the touchdown. The pass covered 16 yards. Berry hit the point after and Ripley led 17-10.
"We did see some potential mismatches on film where we thought we could make some plays through the air," said Coach Frashier.
The pressure was now on the Red Devils, the chance of winning with a field goal on this possession was now impossible and they had to put the ball in the end zone.
After taking the ball on the 20-yard line, Ravenswood was faced with a third and goal on the four yard line and they gave it to the man who got the lion's share of the workload with 26 carries, Devon Crews.
Crews took the ball on a handoff from Burgess and sprinted to the weak side and had one player to beat in Kade Harrison, who is used in situational play at defensive back. Harrison met Crews with a thud at the goal line but the second and third effort of Crews won this battle as he spun and fell backwards into the end zone (see photo above right) for the Red Devil score to bring the Devils within one at 17-16.
At this point, coach Price had a decision to make. Does he take his chances with his defense to stop Ripley in the second overtime and once again, trust the leg of the dependable Carte or do you try to end the game here on a 2-point conversion.
Coach Price chose option one and sent Carte out to tie the game. Price then tried to get a last-second time-out but the sideline official failed to grant it. Ripley crowded the line of scrimmage and the ball was snapped. Immediately, Viking defensive end Jacob Lewis got penetration and appeared to be within reach of a block. Carte followed through on a kick that came off his foot low, but still had a chance to make it through the uprights.
Ripley linebacker Nathan Tucker had another ending to this game planned out in his mind. Tucker, coming off major knee surgery last year, jumped into the air with precision timing and blocked the extra point attempt. The game was over.
The Hatchet was going to take a bus ride back to blue and white country.
A sea of blue took the field and Coach Frashier and coach Price shook hands at mid-field as a sign of mutual respect, sportsmanship and class.
Ravenswood senior linebacker Brad Titus was more than a little disappointed with the outcome. Titus set the Red Devil single season record for tackles in the game with 150. (see story in this issue)
"We were so close to victory this year so many times and to lose this one like this just makes me sick inside. It's not the way I wanted to end my senior season. I found it hard to even look at my Dad after the game."
It was a game played by two teams where it was a shame that someone had to lose.
"Both communities should be proud of these young men. Both teams fought hard for their school and in the end we just made one more play than they did," said coach Frashier.
Ripley's senior Jacob Lewis went in to the game ranked third in AAA in sacks with five on the season. It's worthy of mentioning that he got those sacks in only three games as he began the year at tailback for the Vikings and was moved to defensive end for the Hurricane game.
"It's a great feeling to bring The Hatchet back to Ripley in my senior year. I'm just really happy right now," said Lewis.
Coach Price could not fault the heart and passion of his Red Devils.
"What else can I say about these fine young men? They played their guts out for the honor of their school and community and I couldn't be more proud of their effort tonight, regardless of the outcome."
Senior defensive lineman Jordan Vandergrift put the game in perspective.
"That was as hard a hitting game as we played all year. I have to give them (Red Devils) credit. They kept pounding Crews into the "C" gap and we had no answer for it. I just had a feeling it was going to come down to one play at the end."
RIPLEY OFFENSE: Jake Martin completed 9-of 23 passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kade Harrison caught two balls for 73 yards and two scores. Justin Hinzman caught three passes for 43 yards. Quaseem Fields caught two for 19 and Tyler Kidd and Tyler Pittenger each caught a single pass.
Martin led the Vikings in rushing with 62 yards on 13 carries. Tyler Pittenger netted 33 on nine touches. Bryan Rhodes had two yards on three attempts.
RIPLEY DEFENSE: Justin Hinzman led the Vikings with 13 tackles, Jacob Lewis had 10, Preston Martin - eight, Nathan Tucker - seven, Bryan Rhodes - six, Austin Hall and Quaseem Fields - five, Jordan Vandergrift - four, Brandon Tolley and Daryl Hicks - three, Alex Hambrick - 2 and an interception and Tyler Kidd and Tyler Pittenger had one.
RIPLEY SPECIAL TEAMS - Easton Berry was 2-for-2 on extra points and made a 27-yard field goal. Caleb Jennings averaged 40.3 yards on three kickoffs and 39.8 on four punts. His longest netted 44 yards.
RAVENSWOOD OFFENSE: Heath Burgess completed 5-of-18 passes for 26 yards with an interception. Thomas Sturm had two catches for five yards, Connor Jelich had two catches for nine yards and Nathan Cunningham had a catch for nine yards.
Devon Crews led all rushers with 159 yards on 26 carries, Burgess had 48 yards on eight touches, Rhys Jelich had 11 carries for 11 yards and Connor Jelich had 30 yards on seven carries.
RAVENSWOOD DEFENSE - Brad Titus had 12 tackles, Brett Stanley - five, Heath Burgess, Billy Knicely, Connor Jelich, Devon Crews and Rhys Jelich - four. Ben Johnson and Matt Peery - two. Nathan Cunningham - three, Thomas Sturm, Dylan Radabaugh, Damien Caldwell and Trey Hatcher had a single tackle. Devon Crews had two interceptions.
RAVENSWOOD SPECIAL TEAMS - Mason Carte 1-of-2 on extra points and was 1-of-2 on field goals with the longest being 42 yards. Nathan Cunningham punted three times for an average of 23 yards. Rhys Jelich returned two kickoffs for an average 31 yards and his longest being 37 yards.
Ravenswood outgained Ripley in yardage 268 to 240 and in first downs 13 to nine.