Will the Ravens get a treat, or will Indy's defense trick the talented Ravens?
With the next to last regular season games coming on Halloween night, the Southwestern Conference playoff race is anything but settled. Butler and Independence remain unbeaten in conference play with the biggest game of the season looming next week. Butler has the luxury of a bye week to prep for the Patriots, but Indy must battle Rocky River this Friday. The Patriots’ defense has been nothing short of remarkable this season, and Rocky River’s talent gives them the potential to beat anyone in the state. East Meck will face Porter Ridge in a game featuring two teams playing for pride, and in the final game on the Southwestern slate, Myers Park will host Garinger.
Teams on bye: Butler (9-1, 5-0)
Rocky River (6-3, 3-1) at Independence (9-0, 4-0)
Rocky River entered this season with high expectations. Coming off a conference championship in 2013, Jason Fowler’s Ravens returned a lot of talent at the skill positions. All-everything star Jaire Alexander has proven his merit as a high-profile recruit for South Carolina, scoring for Rocky River on offense, defense, and special teams with regularity. Alexander has over 1300 all-purpose yards and 12 offensive touchdowns. Jaire also has three interceptions to go along with his offensive stats. Running back Elijah Jett has had a stellar season as well, rushing for 909 yards and 8 scores for the Ravens. Senior quarterback Naiil Ramadan has provided some consistency and leadership under center, throwing for over 1400 yards and 14 TDs. The Rocky River defense has been solid as well, anchored by Jacari Major’s 59 tackles and Tim Thompson’s 4.5 sacks.
For Independence, what can you say that hasn’t been said? Indy’s defense has smothered opponents, allowing an eye-popping 4.2 points per game. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins has guided the Patriots’ offense down the field with ease this year, with Indy averaging 41 points per game. Joe Evans has his players working, believing, and most importantly of all, confident that the Big I is back. Indy’s defense has shut out six opponents, and the Pats were up 43-0 on Myers Park before the Mustangs got on the scoreboard. The Patriots know the challenges they will face the next two weeks will matter more than the first nine games of the year, but they’re ready for the challenge.
With Butler coming next week, it’s crucial for Joe Evans to keep his players focused on the talented Ravens.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Independence 28, Rocky River 6
East Mecklenburg (2-7, 1-3) at Porter Ridge (1-8, 1-3)
East Meck picked up its second win of the season last week, throttling Garinger 52-6. The Eagles were able to snap a four-game losing streak that included losses against the “Big Three” in the Southwestern. Barry Shuford’s team is young, and they’re still a year or two away from being where they want to be. Offensively, East Meck has struggled to keep the chains moving, which has put the burden on their defense. The Eagles should have some success against a Porter Ridge team that is allowing 34 points per game this season.
Porter Ridge comes into this game on the heels of a 55-0 loss against Butler. The Pirates have been outmatched in the Southwestern this year, picking up their lone win against Garinger. Porter Ridge’s offense has been a weakness this year, scoring more than 20 points only twice this year. If the Pirates are able to control the line of scrimmage against the East Meck defense, Zach Bevilacqua’s squad will have an opportunity to pick up their second win of the season.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Porter Ridge 35, East Meck 18
Garinger (0-8, 0-5) at Myers Park (3-6, 1-3)
2014 has been another struggle for Garinger, as the Wildcats have simply been dominated all season long. The Wildcats have been beaten by at least 24 points in every game this year, including two 60-point blowouts against Butler and Independence. With two weeks remaining in the season, Garinger is simply playing for pride as they will be facing long odds against both Myers Park and Concord.
Myers Park has dropped three of its last four games, but the Mustangs still remain alive in the playoff race. Scott Chadwick’s team will close its regular season with Garinger and East Meck, two games that will give Myers Park an opportunity to report a 5-5 record for playoff consideration. The Mustangs should have no problem moving the ball against Garinger Friday. Myers Park should be able to use this game as a week to get healthy and prepare for East Meck.