Orange Park Raiders again jolted in second half

By Doug Deters Correspondent
Posted 10/27/21

JACKSONVILLE - The Orange Park Raiders looked in control for much of the first three quarters against Westside until a long touchdown run was taken off the board. The mistake led to a pick six early …

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Orange Park Raiders again jolted in second half


JACKSONVILLE - The Orange Park Raiders looked in control for much of the first three quarters against Westside until a long touchdown run was taken off the board. The mistake led to a pick six early in the fourth quarter that stunned the Raiders on the road with a 28-23 loss at Westside.

“We played a great first half of football but had a lot of inconsistencies in the second half,” said Orange Park head coach Tom Macpherson, who now owns a three game losing streak with Englewood and Clay upcoming to end the season.

The Raiders took control early with a 68 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tavien Wilkerson to Nolan Chambers just two minutes into the game for a 6-0 lead. The Raider duo continued their chemistry after the defense forced an incomplete pass on 4th down to give the ball back to Orange Park. A 30 yard pass from Wilkerson to Chambers set the Raiders up at the Westside 20 yard line and the start couldn’t have been better for the Raiders. Unfortunately, the drive would stall after a fourth down incomplete pass.

The Raiders would take a 13-0 lead with eight minutes left in the second quarter on a 30 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Green. The Raider defense would continue to hold Westside scoreless for the first half and it appeared as if the second half would be much of the same. But, of course, appearances can often be deceiving. Westside would score their first touchdown just 25 seconds into the third quarter to cut the lead to 13-6.

Orange Park would take advantage of what I can only describe as the worst onside kick I have ever witnessed as the ball only travelled one yard (to the left, not distance) and gave the Raiders excellent field position. A 27 yard field goal by William Nicholson upped the lead to 10 points at 16-6.

Westside would answer back with a 45 yard touchdown pass and two point conversion to pull to within two points at 16-14 and seemingly seized all the momentum midway through the third quarter.

The momentum would be short lived as running back JoJo Restall would return the kickoff 75 yards for a much needed Raider score and a 23-14 lead.

The seesaw final stanza continued as Westside would answer on the first play of the fourth quarter with a 25 yard touchdown pass to close the gap back to three points at 23-20. But then the craziness would happen.

The Raiders had the ball at their own 35 yard line and Restall would break a 65 yard touchdown run that should have given the Raiders a 30-20 two score lead.

However, 15 yards behind the play two players grabbed each other’s facemask which caused an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on both players. The penalty’s were offsetting, meaning the touchdown would be wiped off and the down replayed (A huge break for Westside). To make matters much, much worse quarterback Tavien Wilkerson threw a screen pass that was read perfectly by a Westside defender and resulted in a 35 yard interception returned for a touchdown. Westside would also add the two point conversion so what should have been a 30-20 lead turned into a five point deficit at 28-23 and transferred all the momentum to Westside on their Homecoming night.

“It’s frustrating because we have had things like that happen all season,” said Macpherson. “I don’t know if we are just snake bitten or bad karma. We have to do a better job coaching and that starts with me.”

The Raiders would have a bad punt on their next possession that gave Westside the ball at the Orange Park 32 yard line. But defensive lineman Britton Roberts would hit the quarterback, force a fumble that the Raiders recovered at their own 16 yard line. Unfortunately, Orange Park would turn the ball over on downs. They would get one last possession but after an injury on second down to quarterback Tavien Wilkerson the Raiders would turn the ball over on downs with 15 seconds left allowing Westside to run one play in the “victory” formation to run out the clock on a disappointing second half for Tom Macpherson and the Raiders.

Obviously disappointed in the second half performance Macpherson still has some positives for his team. “They played hard all night. At the end of the day you tell your players you love them and let’s get back to work on Monday and finish the season strong.”


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