Two special teams plays — an 80-yard kickoff return at the end of the first half by Chris Rowland and a 55-yard field goal by Crews Holt — gave Ravenwood the firepower it needed to get by Whitehaven in the Class 6A state semifinals Friday night.
The Raptors defeated the Tigers 20-13 and advance to play undefeated Maryville in the BlueCross Bowl on Dec. 5 in a rematch of last season’s 6A title match won by Maryville, 35-34.
Whitehaven scored its second touchdown on a 25-yard pass on fourth-and-10 with just 51 seconds left in the first half. Quarterback Darrion Cole scrambled and found running back Kylan Watkins for a short pass to give Whitehaven a 13-3 lead.
But the 10-point lead was short-lived. On the ensuing kickoff, Rowland took it at the 20 and ran for the end zone.
“We’ve been practicing setting up a wedge all week,” Rowland said. “The way they lined up, they did a phenomenal job with the blocking and set up the lanes, and I was off to the races.”
Rowland also scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, on a 23-yard run.
On the Raptors’ first possession of the third quarter, they were faced with fourth-and-5 from the Whitehaven 38. At first coach Will Hester decided to punt it, but Holt told him he could make the field goal.
“I was going to punt the ball. (Holt) came up and grabbed me by the arm, and said, ‘Coach, I feel like I’ve got it,’ I said, ‘Do it, dude, do it,’ ” Hester said.
The kick was the longest of Holt’s career. His previous long was 52.
“The punt team was out. I’d been hitting the ball pretty solid. I thought if we could get some good protection — the wind holds — we can knock it through,” said Holt, who also kicked a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter.
After Whitehaven had 11 first downs in the first half, Ravenwood’s defense didn’t give up a first down in the second half until the Tigers’ final possession.
“Our defense has played their guts out all year long,” Hester said. “Defense takes you where you need to be.”