JACKSONVILLE – It took every bit of 15 seconds for the jammed packed crowd at Earl S. Kitchings Stadium to quickly forget about all the previous mistakes.
Willie Wright, the most dangerous kick returner in the Jacksonville area with five returns for touchdowns, weaved his way through traffic, cut outside and fought off the kicker at midfield on his way to an electrifying 78 yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:37 remaining to give No. 1 ranked Raines a stunning 35-30 come from behind win over No. 2 ranked Bolles to claim the District 2-4A title.
Earlier in the game, Wright muffed a punt and a kickoff in the first five minutes of the game, forcing Raines coaches to make a shocking change early on.
Wright’s mistakes were not the only ones the Vikings made as Raines committed an unconventional five turnovers in the first half (three fumbles, muffed punt and interception) yet only trailed 14-7 at the half.
His muffed punt at the 8-yard line gave Bolles an early 7-0 lead on Mac Jones 2-ayrd sneak barely five minutes into the game.
Wright muffed kick return seconds later, didn’t prove to be as costly just pinned the Vikings offense in a gigantic hole at the 2-yard line.
As bad as Raines played in the first half, Bolles played just as bad committing several turnovers of its own as well. Neither team was able to take advantage of the others mistakes.
Seven plays after the muffed kick, the Bulldogs defense forced another Vikings punt, however the ball rolled off of TJ Floyd’s leg and into the hands of Viking receiver Andrew Wilcox.
Raines couldn’t take advantage of the mistake and was forced to punt a few plays later, the punt sailed high and got a Bolles roll for just a two yard punt.
Despite being at midfield, Bolles couldn’t take advantage of the great field position either and went three and out.
Two possessions later, senior quarterback Augie Debiase scrambled for a short gain before losing the ball, Ahman Ross was there to pick it up for the Bulldogs.
Again Bolles couldn’t manage anything on offense and punted it back to Raines with under five minutes till the half.
What transpired the next few minutes could only be described as total chaos before half.
On the ensuing play after the punt, Debiase tried to go deep and was picked off by Jamie Brophy at midfield.
Jones lost the handle on the snap on the ensuing play and it fell into the hands of Jaquan Bailey.
The possession didn’t last long two plays later, Dajuan Jackson was leveled after taking a handoff from Debiase. The ball jarred loose and into the hands of Ross, who scooped up the fifth turnover of the first half for the Vikings and returned the fumble 70 yards for a touchdown giving Bolles a 14-0 lead with 3:22 left before half.
Fortunately for Raines fans, the momentum didn’t last too long as three plays later, Bishop Bonnett took a handoff from Debiase and exploded up the middle untouched for a 53 yard touchdown run cutting the lead to 14-7 with 1:36 left till half.
Getting the ball to start the second half, Raines had swung the momentum back in its favor with the late score before the half.
The Vikings kept it going as Debiase connected with Dalvin Storey twice on the ensuing drive, which set up Debiase found Ronald Patterson alone for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Patterson spiked the ball into the ground on the play and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct backing the Vikings back on the point after attempt. Bolles jumped offsides on the PAT and despite successfully converting the PAT, Raines was forced to try it again.
This time Chris Williams kick was short and wide left, keeping the score 14-13 just two minutes into the second half.
Bolles was forced to another three and out on its next drive, Debiase was hit hard on the first play of the drive and replaced temporarily by lefty Ryan Williams, who came in and threw an 18 yard completion to Jordan Rivers for a first down play on third down.
Debiase came back in and hooked up with Storey again for gains of 12 and 27 the latter which put the Vikings at the three yard line.
Rutledge got to the outside and hit the left corner for an easy score giving Raines a 19-14 lead, Rivers was on the end of the two point pass increasing the lead to 21-14 with 2:08 left in the third.
Not to be outdone, Jones rallied his team guiding them down the field partly thanks to a late hit out of bounds on Jones on a third and nine play which put the Bulldogs inside the 12-yard line.
Keeping the drive going into the start of the fourth quarter, Jones over threw receivers on back-to-back plays including third and long. Erica Clark (5-for-5) easily converted the 28-yard field goal cutting the lead to 21-17 with 11:45 left in the game.
Raines caught Bolles off guard on the ensuing play of the drive as Debiase faked the pass and handed off to Wright on a statue of liberty play, Wright took off and broke free for a 55 yard run before getting caught at the 12. A block in the back flag whipped out the huge gain though.
Five plays later, Debiase overthrew his receivers and floated a ball into traffic and Joe King hauled in his area leading sixth interception.
Amari Terry back from an injury broke off a 21 yard run putting Bolles inside the ten. Two plays later Isaiah Westbrook rumbled 5 yards putting Bolles back ahead 24-21 with 7:34 left in the game.
Debiase stepped up when his team needed him finding Rick Wells for 9 yards on a fourth and three play.
Two plays later, Debiase connected with Patterson again who out jumped two defensive players for the ball for a 54-yard touchdown pass putting Raines temporarily ahead 27-24. Raines only brought out 10 guys on the PAT and was flagged for delay of game however the penalty didn’t hurt them as Debiase found Rivers for the two point conversion and 29-24 lead with 4:23 left in the game.
Jones gathered his offense on the sideline and talked to them perhaps to try to calm them down as the momentum had swung back into Raines hands again.
Whatever Jones said worked as backed up from his own 15 yard line, Jones looked poised in the pocket milking the clock and guiding the Bulldogs to another score eight plays later with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Westbrook.
Jones two point play was picked off in the end zone by an unidentified Raines player as Bolles clinged to a 30-29 lead with 1:52 left in the game.
The late score had given Bolles back all the momentum and had many Bolles fans make an early exit to beat the traffic.
Following Wright’s game changing play, Bolles still had one last chance to make another gut wrenching drive.
Jones connected with tight end Zac Crosby for a gain of 15 to the 50, Crosby was dragging defenders for at least 7 yards before Bonnett reached into Crosby hands and stripped Crosby of the ball scooping it up while falling to the ground.
Rutledge broke off a 26 yard run on first down to wrap up the win as Bolles was down to just one timeout left.
As the clock winded down Raines players, coaches and fans began to celebrate its third straight district title and third straight district win over Bolles.
Now the two turn their attention to another possible second meeting again for the third straight year in the second round of the playoffs in three weeks.
Bolles (8-2) is off next week and will have two weeks to prepare for its first playoff game at Walton. A win over Walton would send Bolles back to the Graveyard and another redemption meeting with Raines, providing they can get by Rutherford in two weeks.
First things first though, Raines (9-0) must focus its attention now into its annual showdown with neighboring arch-rival Ribault in the 45th meeting of the annual Northwest Classic next Saturday at Ribault.