Ragsdale looks to make playoff push
One streak lived on Friday night. A few weeks remain until Ragsdale finds out if a second streak survives.
The Tigers’ 28-7 victory over rival Southwest Guilford extended their dominance in the series to 16 years, which was important to Ragsdale’s players: “We’ve got to keep that going,” senior Brian Flaskrud said.
More important, though, was improving to 3-5 overall and 1-1 in the Piedmont Triad 4A Conference. With three games remaining in the regular season, Ragsdale still needs at least one win — and two would be nice — to have a shot at reaching the playoffs for an 18th straight season.
“We have a chance for the playoffs now,” Flaskrud said.
A loss to the Cowboys would have all but killed that chance. The Tigers now play host to PTC co-leader High Point Central on Friday night with a little momentum on their side.
“It’s because of who we’ve played that we’re 3-5,” Tigers coach Tommy Norwood said. “We’re not that far away from being a better team, but we’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ve got to get there fast since we’ve got High Point Central and East Forsyth the next two weeks.”
Against Southwest, the Tigers played a strong first half and then held on throughout the second. Ragsdale’s offense ran 21 plays in the first quarter to Southwest’s three, and the special teams pitched in by tackling the Cowboys’ punter after a fumbled long snap. After taking over on the 7-yard-line, Ragsdale went up 6-0 with four minutes remaining in the quarter on Jerry Gaither’s rushing score.
Flaskrud nearly returned a punt for a touchdown in the second quarter, but had his long run brought back by a penalty flag. Still, after starting just 25 yards from the end zone, Ragsdale scored easily three plays later on quarterback Alec Cobb’s beautiful pump fake and throw to a wide-open Tevin Quick. That 11-yarder was followed by a two-point conversion toss to Dequan Allen to make it 14-0 with 9:43 left in the second quarter.
Southwest remained without a first down in the first half until four minutes before halftime. Rick Mack popped out of the backfield for a little toss from QB Ericc Cunningham. Mack bobbled the ball for a moment, pulled it in, then turned the corner and raced 66 yards down the right sideline. He was tackled at the 5, but Cunningham scored on the next play.
“When you’ve got a kid like (No.) 3, he doesn’t need much (of a hole),” Cowboys coach Eric Rainey said.
And when you’ve got a threat like Flaskrud, you don’t have to worry about ways to silence the energized home fans. On the ensuing kickoff, Flaskrud took the ball at the 10, advanced toward midfield with his long, galloping and seemingly effortless strides, paused to get through one tackle and was gone down the right sideline.
Just like that, Ragsdale led 21-7 and remained in control.
“I saw the hole and kept running,” Flaskrud said. “I saw the guy and thought I was going to get hit — I’m not going to lie.”
The mistake on the punt and kickoff return put two touchdowns on the scoreboard that proved too much for the Cowboys to overcome.
“Those are things you can’t have happen,” Rainey said. “We knew we couldn’t make mistakes. But even giving that up, we still fought.”
Southwest (2-6, 0-2) owned the second half — everywhere but on the scoreboard. Ragsdale ran three plays and punted in the third quarter and didn’t get a first down until a 50-yard dash with 5:34 remaining by Gaither. That play set up a 21-yard Cobb touchdown throw to Bradley Blizard with 3:04 left to seal the victory.
Otherwise, the Cowboys played keep-away. Mack and Cunningham sparked a 14-play, 52-yard drive that took 6:59, but ended 12 yards from the end zone when pressure from Trey Rainey and DeQuonte Goggins forced an incompletion on fourth down. A 12-play, 62-yard drive got as close as the 7-yard line before Neondre Woods’ nice stop on fourth down.
“Possessing the ball that long is a real positive thing,” said Rainey, whose team plays host to East Forsyth this Friday. “It comes down to execution. When we needed to execute, we didn’t.”
Flaskrud added an interception in the fourth quarter to stop another series. Punter Xan Swaim, meanwhile, bailed out the struggling offense with boots of 54, 44 and 41 yards in the second half, and he had a first-half punt downed at the 1.
No doubt there were more highlights for the Tigers in the first half than the second, but the fact Southwest controlled the ball as long as it did without scoring in the second half was another bright spot.
“They have been getting in the end zone,” Norwood said of opposing teams. “Hopefully we grew up tonight a little bit on defense and a little bit on offense.”