MINT HILL The rough edges were what you would expect from a season-opener. Everything else about Friday night’s Rocky River-Richmond Senior football game was like a playoff game.
That included the finish. The visiting Raiders took advantage of a couple of breaks to grab a commanding second-half lead, then had to survive a last-minute comeback by Rocky River to take a 21-14 victory.
“I think it shows us how far we’ve come from this time last year,” said Ravens coach Jason Fowler, whose team went 11-3 and was a surprising winner of the Southwestern 4A conference title. “We had some good opportunities but we’ve got to get better on offense.”
Richmond Senior running back Miles Grant scored three touchdowns, including one on a 79-yard run and another on a 67-yard pass from quarterback Luke Hoggard, as the Raiders rolled to a 21-7 advantage in the last seconds of the third quarter.
They got into that position after what looked like a potential game-tying drive by the Rocky River, down 14-7 midway through the third quarter, was derailed by a fumble at the goal line by running back Styron Justice.
Daryus Skinner scooped up the ball for the Raiders and returned it to his own 42.
Grant scored three plays later on a 1-yard run, set up by a 36-yard run by Shavar Little.
Fowler said he thought Justice was in the end zone before he fumbled.
“No doubt that he broke the plane (of the goal line),” he said. “But the bottom line is you shouldn’t fumble in that position. We had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to get back in it. That’s all you can ask. We fought, and that was a positive about the game.”
The Ravens put together a quick 77-yard drive in the last five minutes of the game, with quarterback Naiil Ramadan connecting with Jaire Alexander on a 12-yard touchdown pass with 2:31 to play in the game.
Rocky River came close to recovering the onside kick, but the Raiders came out with it and went three and out. Alexander returned the punt 40 yards to the Ravens 48.
Rocky River reached the Raiders 28 on a 17-yard pass from Ramadan to Justice with 30 seconds left, but the Raiders’ Skinner knocked the ball away from Alexander on a pass to the 10 on the next-to-last play of the game to preserve the win.
Rocky River appeared to score on the game’s first play from scrimmage, but Alexander’s 80-yard touchdown pass from Ramadan was called back on an ineligible receiver penalty.
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