Marion Kirby Stadium was the site for last Friday night’s meeting between the Page Pirates and the visiting Ragsdale Tigers. Ragsdale came in with three consecutive victories while Page was reeling, having dropped all three games in the 2012 campaign after having gone undefeated and winning a state championship in 2011. Last season, on their way to the unblemished record, Page had come into the Tigers’ stadium and inflicted a 35-14 defeat on the home team.
Page struck first, then saw Ragsdale dominate the rest of the first half as the Tigers took a 21-7 lead. After Page came back in the second half to tie the game, Ragsdale scored the game’s last two touchdowns to wrap up the 35-21 victory.
The game did not begin well for the Tigers. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Page QB Jordan Putnam dropped back and found Jalen Gavin wide open down the middle with no Ragsdale defender within 10 yards. Putnam dropped the ball perfectly into Gavin’s hands and the wide receiver went into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown after only a minute had elapsed.
The Ragsdale defense set up the first Tigers score halfway through the opening quarter. Ragsdale junior defensive back Ivan Milliken picked off a Putnam pass at the Page 30 and came up just short of taking it all the way back as he was pulled down at the 1 yard line. From there, Marquez Eleazer followed his fullback Dupree Lane off left guard and into the end zone. Lucas Hicks converted the extra point to tie the game at 7.
Ragsdale dominated the rest of the half as the defense limited the Page offense to three plays, as the offense controlled the ball for 9:26 in the second quarter. Ragsdale began one drive with just under two minutes left in the first quarter and used 10 plays and over four minutes on the clock to march 72 yards for a score. Brandon Walker picked up big yardage on a 44-yard run around right end from his wide-out position. A personal foul penalty on the Tigers at the end of the run and a holding penalty on the next play moved the ball back into Ragsdale territory and created a first and long yardage situation. The Tigers picked up the first down on a Colson Herndon to Joe Pantuso pass that covered 39 yards and moved the ball to the Page 15 yard line. Five consecutive running plays set up a second and goal from the 4 and a pass over the middle from Herndon to tight end Winston Craig got the ball in the end zone for the score. Hicks put the Tigers up 14-7 early in the second.
The Tigers were even more impressive on their next possession as they covered 67 yards and used 14 plays to eat up just under seven minutes on the clock for their third TD. Eleven of the plays came on the ground as the Ragsdale offensive line began to dominate the Page defensive front. Four times on the drive the Tigers faced a third down and all four times they picked p the first down.
After moving on the ground to the Page 22 yard line, Herndon had completions to Erik Romer for 10 yards and Brandon Walker for 11 to set up a first and goal at the 1. From there, Herndon powered into the end zone to put the Tigers up 21-7 at the half.
Page found a spark in running the “Wildcat” formation on offense. With 5’ 6” speedster Jalen Gavin taking direct snaps from the center, Page caught the Tiger defense off-guard and they took only four plays to cover 51 yards on their first possession after the break. Gavin accounted for all the yards, running the ball three times for 43 total yards and catching a pass for the other eight yards. He scored the touchdown on a five-yard run to pull the Pirates back to 21-14.
Late in the third quarter, Page took advantage of a Ragsdale fumble to begin a drive in Tiger territory at the 42 yard line. Mixing up the “Wildcat” formation with passes from Putnam, Page needed only six plays to find paydirt again. The score came on the first play of the fourth quarter on a perfectly thrown ball from Putnam into the left corner of the end zone that wide receiver Cahill Grant out jumped the Ragsdale defender for and came down with the catch. Kiser hit his third point-after of the night and the Pirates had come all the way back to tie the game at 21-21.
Starting the next drive from their 22 yard line, Ragsdale ran the ball six times to get the go-ahead score. Brandon Walker went in motion from his wideout position and took the handoff from Herndon and went around right end for 59 yards before being tackled at the Page 12 yard line. One play later, the Tigers ran the same play and Walker picked up nine more yards. Herndon then ran up the middle for the final three yards and the touchdown that gave the Tigers the seven-point lead.
With the lead, the Tiger defense came up big once again on the Pirates next possession. With a first down in Tiger territory at the 44, Putnam tried to find a receiver on the right side, but Fred Davis hauled in the interception and set up his offense on the Pirate side of the field. The Ragsdale offense, having established the running game, continued to pound away at the Pirates interior line. Eleazer had three carries, Taylor Booker picked up a couple of first downs with runs up the middle as Ragsdale ran the ball nine times to set up a crucial third and six from the 10 yard line. As he had earlier in the game, Herndon hooked up with tight end Craig who had snuck out behind the defense. Herndon’s pass was lofted just over the defender’s outstretched arms and Craig pulled it in for the touchdown that put the game away. Hicks kicked his fifth extra point of the night and the scoreboard read Ragsdale 35, Page 21.
The Ragsdale offensive line has shown steady improvement over the first four games and tonight they were the stars of the game. Their blocking enabled the Tigers to keep the ball on the ground in the second half and the running game was the difference in the outcome. The offense gained 278 yards on 56 carries, the second week in a row they have had over 50 rushes in a game. The starters on the line, junior center Grayson Collins, senior left guard Austin Huber, senior right guard CJ Gilchrist, senior left tackle Mike Radford and junior right tackle Derrick Sans opened holes and provided protection for the quarterback as the offense put 35 points on the board.
Wide receiver Brandon Walker had a couple of big plays running the ball, going in motion and carrying it around the outside. His 59-yard pickup in the fourth quarter set up the go- ahead touchdown. Marquez Eleazer was the battering ram, carrying the ball 22 times and picking up 77 yards. Quarterback Colson Herndon was outstanding in running the offense as he scored two touchdowns on short runs, picked up a couple of first downs on key scrambles out of the pocket and completed 7 of 14 passes for 92 yards and two more scores. Winston Craig, the starter at right defensive tackle, also saw some action on offense at tight end and made the most of it, catching two passes for touchdowns. The story of the game is told in the time of possession as the Tigers controlled the ball for over 31 minutes compared to the Pirates just over 16 minutes.
The defense came up with four turnovers. Ivan Milliken, Fred Davis and Bryce Walker all had an interception, with Milliken returning his pick to the 1 yard line to set up the Tigers first touchdown. Defensive end Brian Nwokolo recovered a fumble and also was credited with two sacks. The linebacking tandem of Duncan Sparks in the middle and Dontarius Little on the outside led the team with 10 and eight tackles respectively.
Page, 0-4, now looks ahead to the start of Metro Conference play as they host Western Guilford next Friday. After struggling to score points early in the year, the Page offense showed some second-half life. Jalen Gavin was a “do-all” offensive threat, carrying the ball eight times for 39 yards and catching four passes for 69 yards. He also completed his only pass attempt for a 28-yard gain and scored two touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Putnam completed 13 of 23 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns although he did throw three interceptions.
Ragsdale now enters the heart of the season as they begin Piedmont Triad Conference play with a Homecoming match-up with the Parkland Mustangs. The always difficult PTC will bring a test every week, and the Tigers have demonstrated over the season’s first four weeks that they are up for that challenge.
Ragsdale 7 14 0 14 35
Page 7 0 7 7 21
P-Jalen Gavin 46 yard pass from Jordan Putnam (Harrison Kiser kick) (10:59)
R-Marquez Eleazer 1 yard run (Lucas Hicks kick) (5:14)
R-Winston Craig 4 yard pass from Colson Herndon (Hicks kick) (9:29)
R-Herndon 1 yard run (Hicks kick) (0:05)
P-Gavin 5 yard run (Kiser kick) (8:42)
P-Tevin Morrison 10 yard pass from Putnam (Kiser kick) (11:53)
R-Herndon 3 yard run (Hicks kick) (9:45)
R-Craig 10 yard pass from Herndon (Hicks kick) (2:44)
First Downs 18R 14P
Rushing Yds. 278R 81P
Rushes 56R 22P
Passing Yds. 92R 193P
Pass Comp/Attempts/Int. 7/14/1R 14/24/3P
Punts/Avg. Yards 3/33.0R 2/34.5P
Fumbles/Lost 2/1R 1/1P
Penalties/Yards 10/95R 1/15P
Time of Poss. 31:37R 16:23P