Defense Comes Through Big in Rickards’ Win Over Cowboys
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
If Rickards High School’s Head Football Coach Quintin Lewis needed a definitive play that best explains why the Raiders won their season-opener over Madison County, he could choose one by his defense.
But none defined the way that the Raiders dismantled the Cowboys option scheme like the one that didn’t score. Well, scored and was called back on a penalty.
Anfernee Simmons’ interception of Cowboys quarterback Kentwan Daniel was called back after he took it 80 yards, but it was sufficient to snatch the momentum from Madison County when it was threatening late in the fourth quarter.
Minutes later, Rickards’ quarterback DJ Phillips found Chad Hunter on an out route for a 36-yard touchdown catch that sealed a 20-14 victory at Cox Stadium.
The Raiders won’t have much time to savor the non-district win. They play Godby on Friday night in a game that will be broadcast live on WTAL 1450 AM.
Simmons’ interception was one of five turnovers for the Cowboys, as they struggled all evening to hold onto the ball against a defense that repeatedly forced Daniels to hurry.
“The defensive staff put in a lot of hard work and my hat is off to those guys,” Lewis said. “Our defense played great. They’ve been dominating practice. They made plays and that’s all we asked them to do.”
It took some time for the Raiders to figure out the Cowboys, as both teams made the kinds of mistakes expected in a season-opener.
Madison got its first break when Rickards turned the ball over on downs at midfield. Two plays later they seemed headed for a score when Kenny McQuay gained 10 yards on a pass from quarterback Daniel before fumbling it on the Raiders’ 18.
Rickards got no farther than the Cowboys’ 17 and didn’t attempt a field goal because of questions on its kicking game which surfaced in a one-point exhibition loss a week earlier.
Cowboys took the ensuing possession and marched 72 yards downfield on seven plays for the first score, but Madison couldn’t punch in a two-point conversion.
On the ensuing possession, Rickards answered on a 2-yard keeper by Phillips, but the point-after-attempt was blocked to keep it 6-6.
The Cowboys’ inability to hold onto the ball proved costly, with three fumbles in the first half. They gave up two points when they couldn’t recover a high snap and was sacked in the end zone for a two-point safety. That put Rickards up 8-6.
Our effort was tremendous, but we made too many mistakes,” said Cowboys head coach Mike Coe. “They are very, very athletic and you can’t make mistakes. Every time it seems we got a gift we gave it back.”
“We are a lot better than we were tonight.”
The Raiders completed a 10-play drive with a 2-yard run by Hampton with just over two minutes left in the first half and held on to a 14-6 lead by halftime. Madison tied it 14-all in the third quarter.
The Raiders’ defense went to work from that point. Phillips kept trying to find an opened man until he hit Hunter in the closing minutes.
“He was dialed in this week,” Lewis said of his quarterback. “We spent a little time this week learning what they (the Cowboys) do and how we were going to attack it. Our receivers were also dialed in, knowing how we were going to attack this defense.”
Hunter’s catch was one of six that he had for 96 yards. Phillips, who also scored a 2-yard rushing touchdown, found his receivers on 20 of 32 attempts for 184 yards.
“All our receivers have great chemistry,” Phillips said. “We work really hard every day during practice so we have great chemistry between me and them.”