BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY AND RUSSELL VANNOZZI
Part of the story in this week’s continued playoff push comes with the excitement of seeing old foes and settling scores.
For two teams this week, they’ll get a chance to right old wrongs and advance in the playoffs with wins over key rivals.
Battle of Woods sees playoff edition come to life
Of course, you know one well. Brentwood and Ravenwood Round 2 might be the heavyweight billing in public school football this fall, with a first Battle of the Woods seeing the Bruins upset the Raptors on the road in a dramatic, to-the-wire finish.
Both teams have grown a lot since that mid-September matchup, with Brentwood fighting to win the region and Ravenwood coming into its own after a shaky start (a shaky, though undefeated start to BOTW 1, mind you).
The stars have aligned for these two teams to see each other once more out at Brentwood’s place, with everything at stake. The winner will advance to the semifinals and take on the winner of undefeated Germantown and Whitehaven for a spot in the 6A state game.
Both quarterbacks, Brentwood’s Cade Granzow and Ravenwood’s Brian Garcia, are playing great football at the perfect time, and both defenses have done a solid job of limiting the opponent as much as they can. The Bruins’ dispatching Independence last week give you confidence that they can right old wrongs themselves, but they’ll be facing a Raptors squad that is vastly better than they saw to in the regular season.
Ravenwood taking down Cane Ridge on the road was a statement for Matt Daniels and his program. The Ravens have been a terror for aplenty in 6A and beyond this season, but the Raptors rode Garcia’s monster performance to get a last-second victory. It was an emotional one for the team, no doubt. Can they do it again?
Brentwood is also coming off a game with Indy that went into two overtimes, won by a fumble recovery. These teams are likely emotionally wiped out after such dramatic finishes, and transitioning from that to a gigantic rivalry game with semis on the line is no easy task for either team.
As obvious as it sounds, watch this game to come down to a key play or two. In the first Battle of the Woods, it was Xiere Howard’s pick-six of Garcia that set off Brentwood going home with a win. Brentwood has a knack for getting those big plays this year, but so has Ravenwood. These teams feel so identical in what they can do well, but only one can advance.
This is why the Battle of the Woods is such a legendary local sporting event. Every time, it feels like anyone’s ball game.
Friday’s playoff tilt will be no different.
BGA, FRA will vie for state spot
Talking about emotion, how about Franklin Road Academy’s dramatic comeback win against Notre Dame last week?
The Panthers roared back into a game they had no business being in with about 4:00 to half, and punched a ticket to the D-II AA semis. Their opponent? Oh, just the down-the-way rival Battle Ground Academy, a team they couldn’t quite top back in October at home.
Will a road game be any different?
Both of these teams can boast plenty of college prospects (schools like Oregon, Georgia and Georgia Tech will be represented on the field Friday), and both teams have plenty of ways they can beat you.
FRA’s ground game with Brogan Wilson is matched by BGA’s attack of Kaleb Seay and Briston Bennett; FRA’s do-it-all athlete Riley Speed matched by BGA’s dangerous Tiy Reed.
Young, promising quarterbacks? Sean Casey (FRA), meet Nick Semptimphelter (BGA).
FRA has Lance Wilhoite to throw to; BGA has Antonio Stevens, Garnett Hollis and Chico Bennett.
Bennett’s a college-bound pass rusher to Atlanta; FRA DT Tymon Mitchell is off to Athens.
Both of these team’s kickers tied for Kicker of the Year in the region.
Safe to say, this one is going to be a close one.
BGA has home field advantage here, which only helps, but you know FRA’s fans will travel well, with a short drive down Hillsboro Road about all you need. The pressure will be on, with both teams playing for a spot in Cookeville.
Either team would face the winner of that big CPA/Lausanne game going on just a short ways away, so Nashville will be sending both of the eventual state competitors out.
Trying to peg who wins this one is as difficult as the Battle of the Woods. Can the Panthers ride their soaring road win from a week ago to another road victory, and settle the record with BGA after the Wildcats got them at their house in October? Will the Wildcats continue on with a promising season by going 2-0 against FRA?
There’s plenty of potential for two classics in the making this Friday. Who from the county will continue on?
Well, it’ll be up to the other team in the county to decide that one.
Brentwood/Ravenwood photo by Scally, BGA/FRA photo by Vannozzi