Raiders outlast Bay in playoffs
By St. Clair Murraine
There are many reasons that coach Quintin Lewis could have given to explain why his Rickards High School football team had an easy time defeating Bay 42-7 in the first round of the state football playoffs.
For example, the Raiders had the psychological edge after a pre-season win over the Tornadoes. Lewis might have even pointed to the defensive pressure that the Raiders brought all night, or it could have been how easy it was for Rickards to move the ball with a not-so-healthy quarterback D.J. Phillips.
But when it was done at Gene Cox Stadium this past Thursday night, Lewis could only sum up that winning came down to basic execution.
“We just stayed the course tonight,” Lewis said. “We stayed within our game plan and the offensive coordinator had a great plan. We just kept moving the ball.”
Indeed they did after Phillips entered the game that he wasn’t expecting to play. Phillips had been ill all week leading up to the game and Marcus Riley took most of the snaps in practice.
Lewis put Riley under center for the first Rickards series. The Raiders went nowhere. Phillips entered on the next Rickards possession and turned in one of his best performances this season.
He completed 17 of 21 passes for 293 yards and he rushed for another 42 yards on seven carries. Riley and Javon Wooten were his go-to receivers. Riley had seven catches for 117 yards and Wooten made six for 88 yards.
Rickards didn’t get its first score until the second quarter, a trait that the Raiders have shown all season. But after they got started with 21 points in by halftime, they scored three more unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away.
“The first half we weren’t focused because we’d beaten them in the preseason,” Riley said. “Coach Lewis had to get on us that we shouldn’t have done that.”
After the Raiders’ defense gave up an uncontested touchdown on the third play of the game, Rickards’ defense took over and shutout the Tornadoes the rest of the way.
After Bay missed 41-yard field goal try, Phillips engineered an 80-yard drive on the way to a 2-yard touchdown run by Jaden Merritt. The Raiders opted for the 2-point conversion and Phillips found his brother, Simon Phillips, in the back of the end zone.
Bay lost an opportunity to make the game more competitive after starting a late second-quarter drive at the Raiders’ 36. But the Tornadoes couldn’t make good on their best field position of the half, as quarterback Samuel Clement threw a third-down pass directly to Tavyn Jackson. He took the interception 76 yards for the touchdown and Jose Salazar kicked the PAT to send the Raiders into the locker room on top 21-7.
The Raiders host West Florida at Gene Cox Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Riley promised a fast start, saying the presence of a healthier Phillips will make the difference.
“He just makes our offense better,” Riley said. “You see the score (against Bay). He just makes us do what we want to do.”