ORANGE PARK – After building a 22-7 lead on Sept. 28 before the game was halted due to lightning, the Orange Park High Raiders football team continued their assault on the visiting Ridgeview High Panthers on Monday when the game was resumed. The final score was Raiders 36, Ridgeview 7 for a district 5-5A win at Orange Park High.
“We win games by controlling the offensive and defensive line and our guys are playing hard and we have athletes that can do things with the ball,” said Orange Park coach Tom Macpherson. “Vinny (quarterback Vinny Walker) is understanding the scheme after a shaky start against a great Oakleaf team in game one. It’s kind of all getting put together.”
In Friday’s first half of action, riddle with time delays for lightning, Ridgeview scored first off a Caleb Plyler plunge from four yards out after the Panthers took the opening kickoff 60 yards with Plyler punching out three carries and tight end Grayson Edwards hauling in a 31 yard pass to the Raider nine yard line.
From there, Orange Park took over and dominated nearly every aspect of the game with Walker dishing out passes to a handful of hands and tailback Alex Collier following either tackle, Cedric Flanders on the left side and James Rhodes on the right side, for gains of five to 10 yards.
“When our starting quarterback left before the season, everyone was asking what we were going to do and I said we were going with Vinny,” said Macpherson. “He started last year in the two final games and put 39 puts up on Menendez, but faced a strong defensive front with Fleming Island. We were able to start building from that to what I wanted our offense to be in the future. I wanted RPOs (run,pass,option) with Johnson and Collier. Vinny has a great pass touch as well.”
On Orange Park’s first possession of the Friday first half, Walker, Collier and wideout Terrance Johnson took 11 plays to get to the end zone in methodical fashion with Walker hitting Johnson with an 11 yard pass to the Panther eight and Johnson finishing off the drive from there following his big blocking defensive end, Kendy Charles.
“I have a unique problem in that I have a whole bunch of guys that want the ball,” said Macpherson, now 5-1, 2-0 in district 5-5A with a bye this week followed by a district showdown at Baker County (5-1, 2-0) in two weeks. “Our offensive line is full of seniors dedicated to whoever is carrying the ball. It’s that simple.”
Ridgeview was hampered by the Raiders’ overwhelming defensive pass rush, led by Charles and nosetackle Jacob Moore, and relinquished the ball after quarterback Tyler Huff wiggled away for enough time to hit wide out Isaac Chaffin for a 35 yard pass play to the Raider 36. Three oddly off-target passes from Huff gave the ball back to Orange Park on downs at the 32.
Enter Collier, who found a seam behind gigantic guard Silas Little and sprinted to paydirt for a 14-7 Raider lead with 5:30 left in the half.
“We know we only need to get a seam for Alex or Terrance to get downfield,” said Little, who plays guard next to Flanders with senior Ben Elliott teamed with Rhodes on the opposite side; all four near 300 pounds. “We know if we do our job, the skills guys will put up the points.”
Macpherson broke out an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff that kicker Jean Breville scooped up to put Walker and company back on the field.
Collier opened with carries to the 41 yard line before Walker hit tight end Hunter Moore downfield to the Panther 17 for a 42 yard pick up. From there, Walker got a circus catch from wideout Deantwaan Holton who outleaped Panther defensive back Wesley Morris for a first down at the Panther three where Johnson plowed again behind Charles for the Raiders 22-7 lead with Charles piling in for the two-point conversion.
On Monday, the Raiders took over quickly with Walker hitting Sean Dixon on a crossing pattern for 30 yards to the Panther 40 followed by Collier for 10 more yards. From the six, Johnson took three shots to get a touchdown and a 29-7 Raider lead.
“We wanted to come out and get a quick score to get the momentum shift,” said Macpherson. “I think the first score in our situation with the weekend was important to finish the game.”
Orange Park kept mainly a run game for most of the rest of the half with Ridgeview finding little space to operate behind the Raiders’ suffocating pass rush as Charles, Moore and Alex Moore were constantly chasing Huff out of the pocket and into hurried throws.
“We have the athletes in the secondary that make the rush more effective,” said Macpherson. “They locked down and the defensive line chased. The thing with Baker County is their size against our size. They are much bigger.”
Orange Park’s final score was a 23 yard scoring strike from Walker to Dixon with 7:41 left in the game.
“These are all kids that went 1-9 last year and had other teams scoring 40, 50, 60 points on us,” said Macpherson. “I feel great and excited about where we are. The year I was at Baker County, we came here and put it on Orange Park and now we are both 5-1, 2-0 in district and playing in two weeks.”