UPPER GLADE - If there is any team on the Red Devils’ 2016 schedule that should be circled in red, it is tomorrow’s opponent—the Webster County Highlanders. That game was the one that got away from the Red Devils in 2015, and it took Devil special teams miscues and some untimely leg cramping issues for Webster to rally from 13-0 down at the half for a stunning 14-13 win.
Ravenswood dominated the first half last year at Flinn Field, and led 13-0 at the break. Then-freshman quarterback Max Hilton score on a one-yard plunge to cap a 10-play, 45-yard drive and junior Alex Casto bolted 50 yards for another touchdown. The Red Devils kept the Highlanders bottled up through two quarters of play.
However, an onside kick, leading 13-0, to open the second half backfired. Freshman Webster County speedster Luke Hardaway scooped up the bounding football behind the initial Highlander wall,used his patented cutback running style and broke off a 31-yard dash toward the Ravenswood end zone. Junior Hayden Mandrake managed to run Hardaway down and make a touchdown-saving, shoestring tackle, but his right thumb was shattered on the play and he was lost for the rest of the game and the rest of the season.
Three play later, senior Highlander quarterback Walker Rose hit junior Chase Rose with a 14-yard TD pass. The PAT kick was blocked and Ravenswood still led 13-6.
Neither team could mount a scoring threat for over 16 minutes that followed, with senior Colton Stovall and Casto joining Mandrake injured—Casto with severe leg cramps that lasted through much of the fourth quarter.
A high punt snap led to a tackle for loss on Ryan Cunningham and Webster took over at the Red Devil 21. Six plays later, Walker Rose scored from one year out to cut the Ravenswood lead to 13-12. An impassioned pep talk by defensive coordinator Jason Jackson could not lift the Devils enough as Rose ran for the two-point conversion standing up to give Webster County a shocking lead 14-13 with 6:11 left in the game.
The Devils could not mount a drive to answer and time ran out for a disheartening loss to drop Ravenswood to 0-2.
Casto ran for 98 yards on 14 carries, mostly in the first half. Hilton carried a whopping 32 times for a net 72 yards. Ravenswood gained 155 rushing yards on 53 carries with two TDs, and added 17 passing yards.
The Highlanders were held to 95 rushing yards on 37 carries with Hardaway leading the way with 10 carries for 49 yards. Webster added 58 passing yards (TD).
The Webster County debacle left a particularly bad taste in a dismal 1-9 season.
This year’s game will be played at Upper Glade, but again Ravenswood enters 0-1, after stubbing their toe in last week’s home opener, a 26-14 loss to Wahama—a game they should have won late. The Highlanders enter 1-0 after a low-scoring 12-6 win at rival Richwood in the battle for The Wagon Wheel.
Webster County Coach B.J. Phillips lost some key player to graduation including quarterback Walker Rose, but has bolstered his squad to 40 players for 2016.
Luke Hardaway (5-8, 144, So.), and Chase Rose (5-8, 142, Sr.),key cogs in last year’s win at Ravenswood are back. Hunter Hamerick (5-6, 128, Sr.) returns as another speedy offensive/defensive spark.
Cole McCourt (5-8, 142, Sr.) has assumed the quarterback duties.
Collin Young (6-0, 160, Sr.) and Michael Malcomb (5-10, 180, Sr.) are primary receivers with Rose.
Franklin McCourt (5-9, 234, Sr.), Jay Stiltner (6-1, 227, Sr.), Shane McCourt (5-9, 228, So.) and Brandon Perrine (6-0, 220, Jr.) anchor the Highlanders’ offensive/defensive lines.
Ravenswood will look for improved line play on offense and defense after last week’s heartbreaking loss to Wahama, better offensive and special teams production and efficiency, better clock management and hope to avoid leg cramping issues that again plagued the Devils against Wahama and did last year versus the Highlanders. Rushing and passing numbers also need to improve.
Coach Kemp Kelly stressed that his team has to play meaner, physical and get off the field on defense.
Despite last week’s disappointing loss, Kelly and staff say the team’s work ethic is exemplary, and players and coaches are working to correct mistakes made against Wahama, sharpen skills and tweak clock management at all levels.
PRE-GAME NOTES: Friday night’s game is the third in the fledgling LKC series between the Devils and Highlanders with series record at 1-1…Ravenswood won a track meet at Upper Glade in 2014, 65-40…Both the Devils and Highlanders moved to Class A this season…Kickoff in the mountains is set for 7:30 p.m.