Ravenwood football is looking for more stability and success after last year’s disappointing season, and new hire Matt Daniels hopes to bring just that.
It’s been a quick ascent for Daniels, whose unhappiness in the business world launched a job change five years ago. He moved from Virginia to take an assistant’s job last year. Richard Wessman left to take a coaching job in Italy months later, leaving Daniels in charge.
“I started teaching (last week). The first day of school, kids know that I got the job in March, and I told the kids yesterday and today as I met them for the first time, it’s still a dream come true,” Daniels said moments after Ravenwood beat Summit, 16-7, in a 24-minute scrimmage last Friday.
The Raptors capped their second-straight 7-6 season with playoff wins over Houston and Mt. Juliet. Two years ago, they went 15-1 and lost 35-34 to Maryville in the state title game.
That’s the place Daniels hopes to go again. Who better to get him there than Nolensville coach Will Hester, the man who did it last? That’s whom Daniels has picked as a mentor.
“Hester’s kind of taken me under his wing, and it’s kind of ironic for some people to hear that, coming from Ravenwood,” Daniels said. “But he’s been awesome. We struck up a bunch of text conversations, me asking him what to do here, what to do there.
“He’s showing me the ropes a little bit.”
Daniels to go up-tempo on offense
Daniels runs a spread offense with multiple looks. He wants to play fast. He also says to expect different players to be featured in the offense from one week to the next.
“I feel like with our offense every week, you’ll probably get a new name,” he said.
Tight ends aren’t used heavily in many spread offense, but Daniels has big plans for senior Jared McArthur. Daniels mentions him first when talking about roles on his offense.
“He can also block in the running game, seal the edge, create some running lanes for the guys behind them.”
There’s another twist to this offense. Running back Cameron Scherer provides a smash-mouth running style not normally envisioned in a spread offense.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid,” Daniels said. “He’ll run people over, he’s a rugby guy.”
Quarterback Nick Stallcup will be the trigger man.
“He looks good on the run,” Daniels said. “He’s looking to throw, not just looking to scramble. He’s learning and getting better every week.”
A sleeper to watch is Parker Nash, a 6-foot-3 converted basketball payer who’s playing wide receiver.
“Throw the ball up to him and good things can happen,” Daniels said.
Senior-laden secondary leads the defense
Daniels knows that Ravenwood is undersized and inexperienced on defense.
“We’re going to have to get, not necessarily crafty,” Daniels said, “but creative in certain games and certain matchups with that defensive line. We’ve got a couple of sophomores that we’re plugging in that show real promise. We’re excited we’ll have them for three years.”
But, the Raptors are stocked with seniors in a secondary that includes free safety Cole Carteaux and strong safety Seth Erickson.
“It doesn’t get much better than that in terms of guys you trust to make calls and not be out of position,” Daniels said.
French paces special teams
Daniels didn’t speak much about special teams, but kicker Sam French could play a big role. The senior kicked three field goals in last Friday’s scrimmage against Summit.
Region 6-6A is brutal. Most experts peg Ravenwood near the bottom, which Daniels understands.
But Daniels has one big thing going for him, which is an enthusiasm that bubbles over the moment he talks about coaching this team. It’s rubbed off on his players.
“I’ve been around a lot of high school football teams, and they are more of a team and a family and a unit than any other team I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They spend most of their time when they’re not in class and not on the football field—we’ve got a couple of ping pong tables in the locker room and I’ve got moms calling me asking, ‘Why hasn’t he left yet?’ and they’re playing ping pong tournaments.
“It’s awesome to see those guys being friends off the field, and you can see how that’s translating to the game, so that’s fun.”
So, while the Raptors may be going through a rebuild, Daniels seems to be laying the bricks for a future with his sophomores that lead to bigger things a year or two from now.