While Ravenscroft coach Ned Gonet was coaching in his ninth state title game Friday, none of his players had ever appeared in the playoffs until two weeks ago. And the enormity of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Division II state championship game seemed to rattle the top-seeded Ravens against No. 2 Christ School.
But the Ravens proved resilient and overturned a litany of first-half errors to overwhelm the Greenies 50-26 for their ninth state title in school history, first since 2000.
“At halftime, I told everybody to calm down. Let’s not get freaked out,” Gonet said. “We just needed to take care of the football, get our running game going and mix in a few passes. They just had the confidence in each other to get the job done.”
Down 20-14, the Ravens looked like a different team from the opening kickoff of the second half. Devon Perry’s 58-yard return gave Ravenscroft the ball at the Christ School 23-yard line. Donald Fuller gave the Ravens their first lead of the night, 21-20, three plays later on an 11-yard run.
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And they never looked back.
By the end of the third quarter, Troy Jones intercepted two passes, and D.J. Washington scored a pair of touchdowns to give the Ravens a 35-20 lead.
“The first half, we didn’t know what was going on and were playing nervous,” Jones said. “In the second half, we got together a few stops and turned the game around.”
While Jones was integral in the defensive turnaround, Fuller led the offensive charge. He bulldozed his way to 152 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries.
“I told my boys I was going to play for them tonight,” Fuller said. “The seniors haven’t been in the playoffs. I had to show out for them.”
Friday’s win – Gonet’s fifth championship in his 35 seasons with the Ravens – caps a 9-3 season for Ravenscroft. They won their final seven games in a row after a 2-3 start. They scored an average of 48.3 points per game during that period, and Friday’s first half marked the only time since Oct. 5 – a span of 24 quarters – they trailed any opponent.
“The kids kept fighting,” Gonet said. “It’s an experienced group of guys. They really game together the last six, seven weeks and played at a really high rate.”