Raiders take step one to season turnaround finale

By Bruce Hope Staff Writer
Posted 11/18/20

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park High football coach Tom Macpherson has said throughout the season that a maturation process was going to dictate the success of his Raiders with the team full of young, …

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Raiders take step one to season turnaround finale

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park High football coach Tom Macpherson has said throughout the season that a maturation process was going to dictate the success of his Raiders with the team full of young, inexperienced players.

On Friday, in the round one region playoff game against Citrus High, a 1-7 team, Orange Park, after a maybe-demoralizing 0-4 season open, held the line just enough to hold off and defeat a stingy Citrus High team 20-7 who attempted to end the Raiders 2020 season. Orange Park won three of their final four games with a season ending loss, 35-32 to Pedro Menendez.

With the Citrus win, Macpherson will get a second shot at Menendez in playoff round two action on Friday.

“Great team win tonight. We struggled a little bit on offense at times,” said Raiders head coach Thomas MacPherson. “Fields’ a little slippery, not proper footing for a running back like JoJo [Restall] sometimes, but we picked it up on defense for him and the last couple of wins we got back on the board because these guys offensively picked us up and that’s what football is.”

Orange Park had a healthy run-pass balance throughout the game, getting solid contributions from sophomore running back JoJo Restall (60 rushing yards, 2 TD) and junior tight end Maliek Carter (109 receiving yards, 1 TD).

“It [offensive philosophy] depends on opponents all the time,” said MacPherson. “But at the same time…we’ve got some really good receivers, and we think we’ve got quarterbacks who can throw it. So we want to open it up. If we do that, it’s gonna open more running lanes for JoJo because right now teams are probably going to look at us and say ‘hey, stop him [Restall], and you probably got a chance to win.’”

Restall had a solid game but did not dominate in the game.

“Overall, it was pretty good,” said Restall. “Our blockers got better and wide receivers started blocking, and then we just started to execute the running game. I just had a demeanor to win, and I just wanted to win more than anything tonight.”

Restall was able to help his team do that. Restall got the Raiders on the board first, scoring a six-yard touchdown run with 4:59 left in the first quarter.

But, Raider miscues kept the team from taking control of the game.

On the opening drive of the second quarter, junior quarterback Tavien Wilkerson threw an interception. The defense held, though, not allowing the Hurricanes to take advantage of the turnover.

Wilkerson would throw another interception in the quarter before getting it right on a swing pass to Carter that the tight end took 68 yards for the score.

Orange Park led 14-0 nothing at the half, and neither team would score again until the final frame.

Citrus kept fighting and scored a touchdown with 11:43 remaining in the fourth quarter on a run by freshman Colton McNeely.

The rest of the quarter was a defensive struggle, but Restall sealed the game on a four-yard touchdown run with 3:08 remaining.

The Raiders play Friday at Menendez High School.

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