Late TD secures Rickards’ first trip to regional final
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Coach Quintin Lewis doesn’t use the word resilience loosely. At least not when he’s talking about what he’s seen from his Rickards High School football team lately.
Rickards, winner of three of its last four games in the closing minutes, did it again against West Florida High School. The Raiders secured a 33-30 victory with 30 seconds left in the game, capturing a spot in the Class 5A regional finals Friday.
It marks the first time in the history of the program that Rickards has reached this far in the playoffs. The Raiders travel to Ponte Vedra to face the Sharks for a berth in the state finals.
Up until quarterback D.J. Phillips found Javon Wooten on the receiving end of a six-yard pass in the end zone, it seemed the Raiders (10-1) faced a heartbreaking end to a remarkable season. They added a two-point conversion to send the stadium into a frenzy.
“I just like the way we fought,” Lewis said. “We kept fighting; working hard for a win.”
Rickards snatched whatever chance that the Jaguars might have had when Javon Peterson intercepted a third-down pass from quarterback Erick Antoine with just 13.8 seconds left.
“I knew it was a pass play and they would try to get a touchdown,” Peterson said. I had a feeling they were going to try us with it and I took advantage of it.”
The Raiders had struggled all night to get their passing game going against West Florida’s zone defense in the secondary. But they took their chances when desperation set in for the final touchdown.
After opening the decisive series of downs with a running play by Phillips for a loss of two yards, Lewis called for an empty back field and sent the Raiders to take on West Florida’s secondary one last time.
The first two tries weren’t productive, and then on fourth-and-goal, Phillips delivered his second passing touchdown of the night.
“That was our best shot,” said Phillips, who completed 11 of 24 passes for 264 yards. “We had to move the ball down the field and we felt our skilled guys could make plays to win the game.”
As to their early offensive struggles, Phillips said the Jaguars showed a much different defense than what they’d seen on film.
“It was just a lot of confusion,” he said, “but we picked it up in the second half and tried to expose it at much as we could.”