Rickards looks to future after falling to Wakulla, 34-19
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
CRAWFORDVILLE — After watching his Rickards High School football team try unsuccessfully to contend with a ferocious option offense run by Wakulla High School, Quintin Lewis turned his attention to the future.
It was clear that he intends to build his team around the two quarterbacks – D.J. Phillips and Marcus Riley – who got the Raiders into the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) playoffs semifinals for the first time in decades.
“They have matured a lot,” Lewis said, following the Raiders’ 34-19 loss at D.J. Jones Stadium. “Behind D.J. Phillips, we’re going to be okay. Marcus Riley is a great athlete and that guy is going to lead us. The better he becomes the better we become.”
The War Eagles didn’t give Rickards too much of a chance to get going on either side of the ball. On top of that, the Raiders repeatedly stepped on their own toes to give the War Eagles enough opportunities to eventually secure the victory and meeting with Suwannee for a berth in the state final.
Wakulla capitalized on the two biggest mistakes by the Raiders in the first three quarters by converting a Riley fumble in the Raiders’ red zone and turning a Phillips interception into three points.
Wakulla also hurt the Raiders on special teams, when Keith Gavin scored his second touchdown of the night on a 49-yard punt return in the second quarter.
“We wanted to win all three phases of the game and tonight we did,” said War Eagles coach Scott Klees. “I’m proud of that.”
Early in the first quarter, Riles seemed poised to do what he’s done since mid-season when he powered the Raiders’ offense to big leads early. With just over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, he found Kalen Riles on a 72-yard pass.
That put Rickards on top, 7-3, the only time that the Raiders had a lead.
“We knew we were going to get punched,” said Klees. “They are such a good football team, but we hung in there and pretty much dominated the game.”
Gavin’s touchdown was his second consecutive score, which came four minutes after Wakulla converted Riley’s fumble into a 7-yard pass from Feleipe Franks to Gavin to put the War Eagles up 10-7.
“It was us not being able to execute and make plays,” Lewis said. “We had a bunch of dropped passes, missed throws. Just mistakes here and there hurt us.”
So did the option offense of the War Eagles. And, when Rickard had the ball, Wakulla’s secondary made it difficult for either Phillips to find his target or Riley to finds ways to be a threat on his feet.
Wakulla forced one of the Raiders’ two turnovers while Phillips was moving the Raiders inside the Wakulla 45-yard line and the strength of three straight pass plays that put the Raiders on Wakulla’s 41. But the drive was interrupted as linebacker Monterious Loggins hit Phillips on his fourth pass attempt, sending the ball high enough for Antonio Morris to snag an interception.
The Raiders defense made a mild stance as Wakulla was held to a 35-yard field goal, but at the time the end seemingly was inevitable with the War Eagles lead at 20-7.
“We big-played them tonight,” said Klees. “There were a bunch of things that we took advantage of. It was a night that I think our kids came out to play and really, really played hard.
“Our defense has played well all year and once again tonight they put us in great situations to be successful.”