COOKEVILLE – After last year’s one-point loss to Maryville, Ravenwood players swore they would never forget the feeling of watching someone else hoist the gold ball.
They held that memory all year long and made good on their intentions to get revenge, handing Maryville a 26-17 loss in Saturday’s Class 6A state championship game, taking home their second football title in school history and ending a 44-game winning streak for the nationally ranked Rebels.
“We just preached it in the offseason,” Ravenwood standout Chris Rowland said. “For 364 days they have been in the back of our head.”
Ravenwood (14-1) struck first on a 23-yard field goal by Crews Holt that snuck through the uprights despite being tipped before Maryville answered back with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Hopkins to Blake Watson, then pushed its lead to 10 on a 42-yard field goal by Matthew Cone.
The Raptors tied it up in no time, however, striking on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Andre Rappe to Chris Rowland.
Maryville responded with a three-play, 63-yard drive in 1:23 as Hopkins found Brian Tillery with a 12-yard pass to jump back ahead 17-10, but Holt added another field goal before Rowland threw a 5-yard touchdown to Carter Nelson to send the Raptors to the locker room with a 20-17 lead.
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“We came out from the starting snap and hit them in the mouth,” Rowland said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re playing a good football team. You can’t sneak into a street fight.”
Rowland, who has just two offers to play in college, both from Division II schools, rushed for 46 yards, caught five passes for 117 yards and a score and finished 1-of-1 passing with five yards and a touchdown.
“It’s going to come for Chris,” Ravenwood coach Will Hester said. “Too many people saw this game tonight. Too many people sat in the stands, in the press box or watched it on (television). I believe that, his family believes that, and it’s going to happen.”
Holt, Mr. Football Kicker of the Year, pushed the lead to 23-17 in the second half, showing off his leg strength by nailing his third field goal of the night, this one from 42 yards out.
Later in the half Maryville forced a quick three-and-out and had a chance to take the lead, but the Raptors defense responded with a three-and-out of their own forcing a short punt and taking over on the Rebels’ 23-yard line with a little more than six minutes to go.
The Raptors couldn’t gain much, but Holt once again connected from 33 yards out to push the lead to nine and snag offensive MVP honors in the process.
“We had so much confidence coming into this game,” Holt said. “We just came in a finished what we started two years ago.”
Maryville got the ball back, but Nate Stoner picked off Hopkins in the end zone to give the Ravenwood defense its third interception on the night and seal the Raptors’ second state title, and first since 2005. Hopkins had thrown just two interceptions all year entering the game.
The Rebels finished with four turnovers and were never able to recover.
“We made way too many mistakes,” 11-time state champion Maryville coach George Quarles said. “You can’t do that and expect to win.”
Hester said it was his seniors who made it their mission to avenge last year’s loss.
“Not a lot of people said this rematch would even happen, but these kids played their guts out,” Hester said. “These 36 (seniors) refused to have their senior season defined by what they did as juniors.”
Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.