RIPLEY-After going 2-8 a year ago and losing to cross county rival Ripley by a single point (17-16) in overtime, No. 16 Ravenswood made a complete 360-degree turnaround following the Red Devils' 43-13 victory during the 59th edition of the Battle for the Hatchet on Friday night.
"These were the same kids that were on the field when we lost to them (Ripley) by one point in overtime," second year head coach Mick Price said. "They knew that it was up to them to step up and make plays this year and they did and I'm so proud for our seniors to go out with a win like this."
It didn't appear, at least during the first quarter, as though the Hatchet would be leaving Death Valley.
The Vikings, which finished the season at 2-8, took the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards in 13 plays to tally the game's first points on a 2-yard run by quarterback Trevor Tucker. Easton Berry made good on the PAT to give the hosts a 7-0 lead with 6:07 left in the quarter.
Ravenswood, thanks to a pass interference penalty, fought back to knot the game at seven on a 24-yard Devon Crews touchdown and Nathan Cunningham PAT with 3:05 still remaining in the opening frame.
Ripley appeared to be on its way to a second straight score before Tucker was thrown for an 8-yard loss by the Red Devils' Dylan Radabaugh, forcing the Vikings to punt the ball away with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Senior Heath Burgess gathered in the kick at the Ravenswood 9 and raced 73 yards -plus a personal foul on Ripley -to give the visitors a first-and-10 at the Ripley 9. Two plays later, Crews added his second touchdown from 6 yards out to push the red and black into the lead for good, 13-6, with 9:13 showing on the clock.
Ravenswood would add to its lead six minutes later when Rhys Jelich culminated a 9-play, 66-yard drive with a 24-yard run to paydirt. The point after pass failed as the Red Devils would settle for a 19-7 lead at the intermission.
It took the visitors only 14 seconds of the second half to increase their lead to 25-7 as Jelich hauled in the opening kickoff at his own four, broke several would-be tackles, and raced down the visitors' sideline untouched for a 96-yard kickoff return.
Those would be the only points of the third quarter, but not of the second half as Ravenswood got on the scoreboard on a 9-yard run by Matt Peery with 8:04 left in the game. Ripley would answer that score with a 94-yard kickoff return by Kade Harrison on the ensuing kickoff.
It would be too little, too late as the Red Devils would tack on a pair of six-pointers on a 29-yard run by Jelich, who finished with a game-high 190 yards on 24 carries, and a 20-yard pass from Burgess to Peery with 4:28 left in the game.
With the victory the Red Devils earned one of the 16-playoff spots that will be announced Sunday at the WVSSAC's office.
"We don't care who we play," said Price. "We don't care where we play. We don't care when we play. We are just happy that we will still be playing next weekend."