The No. 12 seed Rocky River Ravens overcame two long Winston-Salem Mount Tabor touchdown runs to defeat the No. 13 seeded Spartans 26-14 at home Friday.
Rocky River will play next Friday in the third round of the N.C. Class 4A football playoffs at No. 9 seeded Vance, who defeated Ragsdale 21-19.
The Ravens (9-4) were aided by winning the turnover battle with a fumble recovery and an interception, and did not turn the ball over.
“We talked about that all week,” said Rocky River coach Jason Fowler. “We were so evenly matched I told my kids it was like looking in the mirror. I told them whoever had the least amount of penalties and turnovers was going to win the game and that’s what happened.”
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Ravens running back Elijah Jett was a workhorse back, especially in the second half when he carried the ball 22 times for 91 yards with some big first-down runs. Jett finished the game with 168 yards on 33 carries.
“Coming into the second half they told me they were going to ride me and I had to go out and make plays,” Jett said.
Rocky River quarterback Naiil Ramadan finished 6-for-12 passing for 144 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for a score.
Mount Tabor senior running back James Antoine had two long touchdown runs of 62 and 75 yards, finishing the game with 208 yards on 19 carries.
The Spartans had a below-par night passing. Mount Tabor quarterback Graham Morton was 10-for-29 for 119 yards.
Mount Tabor scored first on its second offensive possession when Antoine weaved his way through the Rocky River defense for a 62-yard touchdown run and the Spartans led 7-0 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
On Mount Tabor’s next possession, an untouched Ravens blitzer crushed Morton, causing him to fumble. Rocky River recovered on the Spartans 1. Ramadan leaned in for the score and the Ravens tied the game at 7.
Midway in the second quarter Rocky River drove to the Spartans 10. But the Mount Tabor defense stiffened and the Ravens were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Jonathan Phifer and a 10-7 halftime advantage.
What is Fowler expecting next week in the Ravens battle with Vance?
“AB’s (Vance coach Aaron Brand) doing a great job over there.” Fowler said. “He’s got those kids believing; they’re playing hard and they’ve got a great football team. Our kids are excited, their kids are excited and I think it will be a great ball game.”