Raiders ride wave of confidence into finalsNovember 18, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
Throughout the season, the Class 2A No. 5 Southridge Raiders football team has used the motto “Be Legendary.”
Whether it was Matt Price slipping past the No. 2 Indianapolis Scecina secondary for a 55-yard touchdown or Grant Maxey and Seth Nunamaker grabbing key interceptions in the fourth quarter, Saturday’s 24-7 semistate victory over the Crusaders was full of legendary moments with guys who have played together for most of their young lives.
““Growing up, we’ve all always been best friends so it’s always kind of been our motto to be legendary and go to the state finals,” said quarterback Jayce Harter who finished with 243 total yards (138 rushing, 105 passing) and three total touchdowns. “It’s what we love to do and it’s what we were born to do.”
The victory gives the Raiders their fourth overall state finals appearance and their first since 2006. But to many of the players, the fact that they’ll be playing for the Class 2A state championship next Saturday against Woodlan at noon hasn’t fully hit them.
“I still can’t picture it yet,” Maxey said. “I mean, I never thought that day would come but here it is.”
For Southridge coach Scott Buening, the state finals appearance is a culmination of all of the effort and determination the Raiders have shown throughout the season.
“These kids do everything, they work so hard and even this morning before we left we did some strength training,” Buening said. “These guys put their money where their mouth is. It’s really easy to say you want to be here but to make the commitment to actually get there and believe and travel three hours to play the number two ranked team in the state and to still come out and win the game, is just amazing with so many challenged stacked up against you.”
After both teams had a drive of their own to start the game, a weather delay was called for after several lightning strikes were spotted in the area.
Just two plays after the delay, Scecina quarterback Mac Ayres found David Baker for a 36-yard touchdown pass. One could say the Raiders defense was a little out of sync after the delay, but senior cornerback Jacob Masterson isn’t one to make excuses.
“Raiders aren’t concerned with the elements,” Masterson said. “I know a lot of people say that, but it’s true. We stayed focused because they came out here and got a quick score but we were able to put up 24 points unanswered and not a lot of teams can do that.”
Due to the heavy wind gusts, both teams seemed to stick to the ground game until the Crusaders launched their aerial attack for a touchdown. Soon after, the Raiders tried their luck at it as well.
“We saw them throw a touchdown pass that way so we thought, well maybe it’s not too bad,” Buening said with a laugh. “We knew the wind had the potential to be a concern.”
Harter found Price speed past the Crusader secondary for a 55-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders the lead after Jeovany Dubon knocked home a 32- yard field goal (his season long) as the first quarter expired.
The connection between Price and Harter is one that goes way back — and was most certainly noticeable on not only the connection for the touchdown but also on the catch on a key third-and- 8 during the Raiders drive that was capped off by a Harter 1-yard scamper for a touchdown.
“I mean, knowing Matt and our chemistry, I knew we were going to connect,” Harter said. “It’s semistate!”
The Raiders took a 17-7 lead into the half thanks to another long bomb from Harter, this time a 41-yarder to Colin Smith but the afternoon’s most important drive happened in the third quarter.
After deferring to the second half on the opening coin toss, the Raiders methodically marched down the field for 10 minutes and 55 seconds before Harter’s TD sneak – a drive that Harter referred to simply as “that’s raider football for you.”
“In all of my years of coaching and playing, I’ve never seen a drive like that,” Buening said. “To keep their offense over on the sideline because they have some weapons with their speed and to finish it off with a touchdown, that’s a lot of grit and toughness.”
Leading 24-7 in the fourth quarter, Scecina continued to pass the ball in order to try and inch their way back into the game but interceptions by Maxey and Nunamaker ended any hope for the Crusaders.
Maxey’s said his interception was almost a flashback to his pick in the season-opening 17-16 win over Linton to begin the Raiders ‘legendary’ campaign.
“It was definitely kind of a throwback moment for me, some nostalgia there for sure,” Maxey said with a laugh. “You have to kind of stay in the zone when those big plays happen and try not to get overrun by excitement. It felt like it all happened in a split-second so I just tried to stay cool.”
The Raiders outgained the Crusaders on offense 369-170 after running a total of 62 run plays to just three passing plays while also locking down defensively on third downs holding Scecina to just a 14 percent conversion rate.
After being shut down 50-14 by Brownstown Central in the sectional championship last season, Masterson knew that the Raiders would bounce back stronger than ever this season.
“Ever since that loss last year we knew that this year would be the year,” Masterson said. “We’ve had that thought all through the offseason, all through 5 a.m. weight lift sessions, all through early morning running practices. We knew this would be the year and we’re fulfilling that dream right now and we’re going to get it done.”
The Raiders trek to full legendary status as the first state championship football team in school history has one more pit stop — next Saturday’s state berth against the Warriors (12-2).
But no matter what happens now, the ride has been all the more sweeter doing it with their friends they’ve grown up with.
“We’ve wanted this since we were young and now we get to live it,” Price said. “Looking back, you take things for granted but I mean the opportunity to just play in a state finals is indescribable. There’s nothing like it.”
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