STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
Throughout the night in the Ravenwood pomp and cheer stood a sign indicating that it was hunting season for the Raptors.
If you’re curious, they were hunting bruins.
But that’s the funny thing about hunting a bear. You must factor in that the bear might scratch you back.
Friday night, the young Brentwood Bruins became the hunters as they posted up a 31-28 road win over super-rival Ravenwood in the annual Battle of the Woods.
“It’s an awesome feeling; it’s great,” an excited Bruin sophomore quarterback Cade Granzow said of the big win.
Considering the lawn chairs posted up at the south end zone and the hustle and bustle of maneuvering the crowd for a quick bathroom break, the entire Brentwood community was out in full force to see which of these teams would come out victorious.
At the game’s start, it appeared to be 123 Easy Street for the home team.
Junior quarterback Brian Garcia led the Raptors down the field early and caught a touchdown on a trick play to give Ravenwood the early 7-0 lead. They piled it on with a Tony Rice touchdown early in the second quarter to go up 14-0. The Bruins offense struggled to get much done against a stout Ravenwood pass rush and tight coverage.
But then, as it did for Brentwood throughout this one, something broke loose.
Senior running back Jordan Nicholas scampered for a 61-yard run midway through the second into the end zone to get Brentwood into the ballgame, which held until half.
In the second, Brentwood needed to spark a bit more magic to be able to hang with the Raptors in their own roost.
Then, Bruin Xiere Howard set it off.
His game-changing pick-six off a Garcia pass tied the game at 14 and swung the pendulum of momentum firmly to the visitor’s sideline.
“We [had been] seeing that play all practice,” Howard said of his big grab-and-score. “Once I saw it, I knew it was RPO. I knew the receiver was right behind me. Jumped on it, made a play and just went for the touchdown.”
To Bruins head coach Ron Crawford, Howard’s play could foretell some special things for Brentwood down the way.
“[That play] may have helped us have a chance to win the league,” Crawford said. “It was a huge play.”
Brentwood’s defense began to get more stops, and then Granzow began to heat up. He found Karson Dreier under pressure for six, and Brentwood wound up taking its first lead, 21-14, with 1:49 to go before the third expired.
Raptor Nation had to hold their breaths in the fourth quarter when Garcia went down with an injury, but it would up, more than likely, a case of the cramps.
As he got his body right on the sideline, Brentwood stormed down into Ravenwood territory once more to see Granzow find junior wideout Chayce Bishop in the end zone for another touchdown to get Brentwood up 28-14 with about a half-quarter to go.
28 unanswered points for the Bruins was tough after Ravenwood’s strong start. Garcia was able to get back into action after loosening up on the sideline. Whatever he did worked, as he soon found Anthony Holmes isolated on a rout and lobbed one deep to him to get Ravenwood back within a touchdown with 7:44 left.
A long Brentwood drive and late Tabor Miller field goal gave Brentwood the 31-21 edge, and with 1:18 to go, looked like ballgame.
The Raptors had other plans, as Andrew Mason nabbed another Garcia touchdown with only a half-minute to go to get Ravenwood back close, 31-28. But, inches separated the onside kickoff attempt from success and out-of-bounds.
The ball went for the latter, and Brentwood would be able to kneel it out for its fourth win of 2018 and Ravenwood’s first loss.
“I don’t know that we did anything special,” Crawford said of what might’ve changed after the team’s slow start. “We didn’t really make any changes. We just challenged our kids and said that we’re not being very physical.”
Granzow said it was the team’s mentality that got them back in it.
“Whenever we’re down, we know that we can come back,” Granzow said. “We came out aggressive in the second half, making big plays…and adjusting to the defense.”
To Crawford, the team has things to be proud of and things to tighten up, as comes with fielding such a young squad.
“It’s a little easier to get better after a win,” he said.
The game looks a bit different from the home vista.
“[We] left a few points out there, and that ended up being the difference,” Ravenwood head coach Matt Daniels said. “I think we could have stretched our lead to 21-7 at half.”
To Daniels, it was Brentwood who took on the Raptors’ 2018 moniker of being the comeback kids and gave a “hats off” to the team’s performance. Though, he said he was proud of Ravenwood’s effort in the game’s closing moments.
“In the end, I told our team, most teams at any level of football when they’re at home, playing against their rival, they’re left for dead down 14 in the fourth quarter, down 10 with a minute left, and a lot of teams would give up,” Daniels said. “We pushed to the last second. I mean, we’re inches away from getting an unbelievable onside kick by Luke Akers.
“It just didn’t fall our way tonight.”
Though, if you asked Daniels, he’ll say eagerly that if his team would have nabbed Akers’ kick, they’d have gone down and scored.
So goes another Battle of the Woods, where both teams are within a buckshot of victory and defeat in equal measure; plenty of stories to be shared, lessons to be learned and fuel to be fired when these two teams go at it at again Brentwood’s place next fall.
Below is a slideshow from photographer Deb Scally.