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Ragsdale and Page met on Friday night in what many people were calling the “game of the year.” This in spite of the fact it was only the fourth week of the season and conference play hasn’t even begun. With both teams coming into the matchup with identical 3-0 records, Fox 8 covering the pre-game as their “Game of the Week,” radio station WPET 950 AM broadcasting the game live, and an overflow crowd lining the fence around the field, it certainly had the feel of a “Big Game.” The two teams lived up to the hype, playing a rugged battle that was evenly contested during the first half and then saw the Pirates from Page take command in the second half to record a 35-14 win and continue their unbeaten season.
Ragsdale actually dominated the early going as their offense drove for two touchdowns and the Tiger defense, after giving up a 75-yard scoring run from the Pirates’ Drew Rogers on their second play from scrimmage, kept the Page offense in check. But the Pirates found a way to get their offense untracked late in the first half, scoring their second touchdown with less that a minute to go before halftime to cut the Tiger lead to 14-13.
The second half was all Page, as their defense completely shut down the Ragsdale offense. The Pirates got two more offensive scores as well as a defensive touchdown on a pass interception as they dominated the game over the last 24 minutes.
Ragsdale couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game. Taking the opening kickoff the Tigers used an 11-play, 66-yard drive to put the game’s first points on the scoreboard. Quarterback Garrison Herndon got off to a hot start connecting on four consecutive passes during the drive, three to Brandon Walker for a total of 49 yards. The fifth pass of the drive was broken up but the Page defenders were called for pass interference which set the Tigers up with first and goal at the 7 yard line. Two consecutive carries by Marquez Eleazer produced the score, the last carry going off right tackle from four yards out. Brad Davis came on to tack on the extra point and Ragsdale had taken a 7-0 lead. It was the fourth consecutive game Ragsdale had scored on the opening drive of the game.
Page wasted little time in answering the Ragsdale score, needing only two plays to cover the distance. Speedster Drew Rogers ran a counter up the middle and broke free at the line of scrimmage and outran the Ragsdale defense for the 75-yard touchdown. The extra point by Ryan Jackson tied the game as the Pirates had needed only 55 seconds to respond to the Tiger touchdown.
Two series later, Ragsdale began another drive, this one from their 45 yard line after Chris Bailey-burke recovered a Summers fumble. Herndon picked up a first down on two consecutive throws to Eric Romer, each covering six yards. Xavier Jones got three carries for another first down and with second down from the Page 19 yard line, Herndon lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone that wideout Anthony Stewart pulled in for the score.
The Ragsdale defense kept the Page offense bottled up on their end of the field. Ragsdale’s Duncan Sparks picked off a pass to give the Tigers a first down on the Page 18, but one play later Page’s Savon Wall returned the favor and intercepted a Herndon pass at the Page 32 to abruptly end the threat.
Page’s defense forced a punt with just over three minutes left in the half. Drew Rogers carried on three straight plays for 15 yards and Summers hooked up with Orlando Hatfield for 27 yards on a crucial third and 5. With less than 30 seconds left in the half, Summers found Jacquel Derr breaking open over the middle for the touchdown to pull the Pirates within one at 14-13. The score remained that way at the half as Ragsdale’s Sharif Diaz came off the corner to block the extra point attempt. The first half had lived up to all the hype. The two teams had battled and Ragsdale seemed to have dominated the first 24 minutes, but Page had hung in and found a way to get back in the game late in the half.
The second half was all Page. The Ragsdale defense spent way too much time on the field as the offense was unable to sustain a drive against the Pirate defense. Page controlled the ball for 18 of the 24 minutes in the second half. Despite getting two more turnovers, one on a Winston Craig fumble recovery and the other on Duncan Sparks’ second interception of the night, Ragsdale could not solve the swarming Pirate defense. Page took the lead in the game for the first time with just over four minutes left in the third quarter when Summers connected with Brian Spain on a 28-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone. Rogers went off the left side for the two-point conversion to give the Pirates the 21-14 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter the Page defense put the game out of reach. On third down, Herndon threw a pass to Brandon Walker and the ball bounced off his hands right into the arms of Page’s Ed Britt who went 35 yards untouched for the touchdown. With the Jackson extra point Page had increased the lead to 28-14 and the Ragsdale faithful began heading to the exits.
Page capped off the evening with their best drive of the night, using 12 plays to cover 66 yards and eating up 5:35 off the clock. The big play on the drive was a 37-yard pass play with Summers connecting with Tevin Morrison who was brought down on the one yard line. Drew Rogers found the end zone taking a pitch off the right side for the score to make the final score 35-14.
The story of the game was the Page defense. They are big and quick and continually disrupted the Ragsdale offense after the first quarter. The Page defense kept getting stronger and stronger while the Ragsdale offense kept going three and out, unable to sustain a drive to give their defense some rest. In the second half, Ragsdale had the ball for six possessions and only ran 19 plays, including two interceptions and a fumble. They had 36 yards in total offense in the second half.
For the first time this year, Ragsdale was unable to generate any running game with all of the credit going to Page’s defense. Ragsdale had 20 carries that resulted in a net gain of only 30 yards. Herndon started the first quarter by going 7 for 9 for 83 yards and a touchdown, but in the next three quarters went 7 for 22 for 91 yards with three interceptions. Overall it was a 14-for-31 night for 174 yards. Unable to establish any running offense, Ragsdale was forced to throw the ball much more than normal.
James Summers for Page injured his finger on his non-throwing hand during the game and was kept in check on the ground, carrying the ball 14 times for 33 yards. He was 8 for 19 through the air for 180 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Drew Rogers carried the ball 17 times for 120 yards with 75 of those yards coming on his TD run on his first carry of the night.
Duncan Sparks and Trey Grimes were outstanding on the defensive side for the Tigers as each of them were in on 10 tackles. Sparks also had two interceptions, the second year in a row he has picked off two passes against the Pirates.
On the injury front, Ragsdale’s tight end and punter, senior Karson Redfern, was injured early in the second quarter. Redfern made a nice catch and run for 36 yards on a pass play, but when he was tackled went down awkwardly and suffered a broken collarbone. Redfern was having a terrific year at tight end, being an excellent target in the passing game and also doing a great job blocking in the running game. He is out indefinitely and will be missed.
Page moves on with a 4-0 record and they are set to open Metro Conference play by traveling to Western Guilford Friday. Page has played a difficult schedule and come through it unscathed as they continue their march to the playoffs with high expectations.
Ragsdale needs to find a way to rebound from a tough loss. They have won a conference championship four consecutive years and will begin their pursuit of a fifth by traveling to Winston-Salem Friday to take on the Parkland Mustangs. Parkland is 2-1 on the season and are coming off a 56-24 loss to Mount Tabor.
Page 7 6 8 14 35
Ragsdale 14 0 0 0 14
First Downs 12-R 15-P
Rushing Yardage 30-R 216-P
Rushes 20-R 44-P
Passing Yardage 174-R 180-P
Pass Comp – Att – Int. 14-31-3-R 8-19-2-P
Punts – Avg Yds 6-32.8-R 3-32.0-P
Fumbles – Lost 2-1-R 3-2-P
Penalties – Yds 5-35-R 9-77-P
Time of Possession 20:01-R 27:59-P
R – Marquez Eleazor 4 yard run (Brad Davis kick) (6:47)
P – Drew Rogers 75 yard run (Ryan Jackson kick) (5:52)
R – Anthony Stewart 19 yard pass from Garrison Herndon (Davis kick) (0:51)
P – Jacquel Derr 21 yard pass from James Summers (kick blocked) (0:25)
P – Brian Spain 28 yard pass from Summers (Rogers 2 pt conv. Run) (4:07)
P – Ed Britt 35 yard interception return (Jackson kick) (10:18)
P – Rogers 1 yard run (Jackson kick) (3:38)