ORANGE PARK – Friday the 13th proved to be unlucky for the visiting Clay Blue Devils as two turnovers in the fourth quarter were enough for Orange Park High’s Raiders football team to launch a come-from-behind home victory for the Raiders as the team celebrated “Open the Door” Patriots Night in Hoyt B. Cotney stadium, 13-8.
“Wins are wins” said Orange Park Head Coach Tom Macpherson. “We are finding ways to win games that we used to lose. We faced adversity all night. Too many penalties. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and we have to clean it up.”
In the first half, both teams went into a game of ground tug of war that had them going into the locker room, 0-0. The notable in the first half were the amount of penalties that killed off several drives for both teams.
“At one point in the second, I was faced with a second and like 65,” said Macpherson. “You can’t do that and expect a good outcome.”
Orange Park’s Alex Collier and Vinney Walker proved to be the workhorses for the Raiders, as Clay had Chris Goldstein and Al’Querious Ray staying primarily on a ground assault for the Blue Devils.
In the third, as Ray and Goldstein continued to push the ball up field, Clay finally unleashed the air game, catching the Raiders off guard. At 7:21, Clay quarterback Bruce Griner III rolled right and found Leo Carawan wide open out in the left flat, putting Clay on the board 6-0. Clay executed a perfect two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
Later in the third, the Raiders would show they would not be timid and on fourth and eight. Raider quarterback Vince Walker found wide receiver Sean Dixon open on a slant across the middle to get the first down. The drive died deep in Clay territory on an overthrown pass during another fourth down attempt, but the Raiders showed they were pulling out all the stops.
Clay started the fourth quarter punting the ball back to the Raiders, who used a Diego Soto completion from Walker to move the ball to the Clay 20. The Raiders called Terrence Johnson’s number on a third and 21. Johnson gained some of the yards needed, but a Clay penalty gave the Raiders a fourth and six to go.
Orange Park went to the air and again hit Dixon with another pass, getting the ball on the two yard line. The Raiders put Collier in the driver’s seat with a Wild Cat set that needed three attempts before Collier used up the Blue Devils to move the score to 8-6 with 8:41 left to play.
The Raiders lined up with an unbalanced line, then direct snapped to Soto who walked right in. The celebration was cut short when Orange Park was called on an illegal numbering penalty. On the retry, the Raiders settled for the kick and an 8-7 score.
On the return drive, Clay made its costliest mistake while going for it on fourth and one, they had the yards to get the first down, then coughed the ball up, recovered by the Raiders.
“When bad things go wrong,” said Macpherson.” You can make something positive of it if you just keep your head.”
With 6:01 left, Walker and Collier teamed to move the Raiders down the Clay 11. Again, the Raiders went with a heavy dose of Collier Wild Cat until Collier punched it in at 3:27.
Orange Park went for a two-point try and had the jump pass picked off.
Down 13-8, Clay had 3:13 left to try and get one more score, but would make the second huge letdown. As Clay executed a screen pass on the left side, which was caught, the receiver ran up field, was stripped of the ball, and recovered by the Raiders with 2:46 to play.
Orange Park needed only to get an additional first down to counter the timeouts left for Clay to stop the clock.
With 1:18 left, Collier again came through for his team on a third and six situation. With the first down, Orange Park lined up in Victory formation as all Clay could do was watch the clock burn down with an Orange Park 13-8 home win.
“Every scenario is a teachable, learnable moment,” said Macpherson. “You have to understand what you are trying to do and how you are going to do it. Next for me is changing attitudes.”
The loss keeps Clay still winless on the season as the prepare to host a non-conference matchup against the Palatka High Panthers. The win moves Orange Park to 2-1 so far as the Raiders prepare to host the Westside Wolverines for a non-conference matchup on Homecoming night.