Raiders, War Eagles vie for berth in postseason

Raiders, War Eagles vie for berth in postseason

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Raiders, War Eagles vie for berth in postseason

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The stakes are high as Rickards travels to Wakulla for tonight’s huge District 2-5A match-up.

It’s familiar territory for the War Eagles (7-1), but for the Raiders (6-1) not as much. For both, having so many meaningful games late in the season is invigorating.

“The last two years we were fortunate to have the district sown up by now,” Wakulla coach Scott Klees said. “But before that, the previous four years, we had to play Rickards or Suwannee just to get in. We understand what it’s all about. We have to be patient, play hard, we can’t make mistakes, and if we do, we have to be able to overcome them. We’re excited about it. The atmosphere around here is great.”

And as is heard so often, it’s now win and you’re in. Loser misses the playoffs, winner gets to keep pursuing goals set months ago.

“It’s go time,” Rickards coach Quentin Lewis said. “It’s time to make all the plays to show people what we can do on this side of town. It’s blue and gold everywhere. It’s time to make the playoffs.”

Both teams were handed losses — their only ones of the year– by district champion and defending 5A state champ Godby, and in the eye test of playoff contenders, it’s a reasonable debate to have on why one team after a stellar season will not be competing past Nov. 7.

But unless the format is overhauled, this may very well become the norm for many years to come.

“One of the first things I wanted to do when I took over this team was to change how people see Rickards High School,” Lewis said. “We’re doing that. We’re playing good football. People have faith in what we’re doing. We’re trying to get our fan base back. People care about each and every one of these kids out here and that’s what makes them good.”

Klees only has to pop in game footage and see the tangible results

“Looking at Rickards on tape, very athletic, very talented, well-coached,” he said.

Wakulla has had a challenging year, losing 29 seniors from last year’s team, including 19 of 22 starters.

Physically imposing sophomore starting wide receiver and safety Keith Gavin was lost early in the year due to injury, and sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks had to put in a full season’s worth of work under center.

Entering this game, Wakulla senior receiver Jordan Franks has arguably been the Big Bend’s best player this year. The only game he was held under 100 yards was against Godby, in which he caught a 55-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass. He’s also scored in every game, totaling 11 touchdowns for the season, which makes his 54 receptions for 1,145 yards that much more impressive. He topped out with 278 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches in a win at Bradford.

The Raiders will turn to their leader, too. Senior quarterback Charlie Kelly has accounted for 25 touchdowns, and if Rickards reaches the playoffs, could go over 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing.

“We talk about how Godby won a state championship on the road as a district runner-up,” Lewis said. “We’re trying to do the same thing. We’re trying to make the run here this year. It starts now.”

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