Schuyler Rams Bring Down the North Shelby Raiders 56-40 in District Championship
by Sara Smith
Friday, November 10th the North Shelby Raiders came to Schuyler County looking for some redemption. The last time they were at Rams Stadium in Week 4, they were dealt a crushing defeat, 60- 14. Since that time the Raiders got back their starting quarterback, junior Jade Daniel, and reeled off five straight victories. The Raiders were on a roll and looking to redeem their last loss and gain the district title in the process. Only this time, there was more than pride on the line, the Class 1 District 8 Championship was on the line and the Rams have been gunning for this title all season. Neither side was looking to give in without a fight.
The Raiders won the coin toss and deferred until the second half. The Rams had the first possession of the game and promptly put 6 points on the scoreboard. The Raiders responded with a touchdown drive of their own, capped off with a successful 2-point conversion, giving the Raiders a two-point lead, 6-8 with 7:47 left in the first quarter. This would be the first of many lead changes in the game.
The Rams second possession ended the same way the first one had, with a touchdown pass from senior quarterback, Connor Smith, to senior wide receiver, Mayson Humphrey. This time the Rams converted the 2-point attempt and regained the lead, 14-8 with 6:32 remaining in the first quarter.
Rather than get into a fast-paced scorefest with the Rams, the Raiders opted to slow things down with a 12-play drive that took 4:32 off the clock. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that drive was riddled with penalties and stalled at Rams 30-yard-line where the Rams took over on downs. If the Rams wanted to get some breathing room they would need to capitalize on this change in fortune and get another touchdown.
That was not to be. The Rams fell into the Raiders pace of the game and put together an 11-play drive that would end the same way that the Raiders’ last possession had- with a turnover on downs. That drive also marked the end of the first quarter and took the game clock to 11:02 still to play in the second quarter.
This time it was the Raiders turn to try and take advantage of this defensive windfall. The Raiders took over on their own 4-yard-line and in just five plays they were able to go 75 yards for a touchdown. Not only did the Raiders tie up the game at 14- 14, they also took time off the clock with 7:39 left in the first half of the game.
The Rams were once again driving downfield to regain the lead when a fumble on the handoff was recovered by North Shelby and the tide turned yet again. The Raiders took over the ball on their own 30-yard-line and seven plays later freshman running back, Gannon Bowen ran in a 16-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion was successful and the Raiders brought about the third lead change of the game at 14-22 with 2:20 to go in the second quarter.
The Rams’ offensive success this season has come from a run-and-gun style offense that scores quick and often. On the answering drive the Rams only took one play to return to form and respond with a 40-yard pass for a touchdown. The Raiders only held their lead for nine seconds as the Rams tied up the score 22-22 with 2:11 on the clock.
With the clock winding down the Raiders kept to their game plan by running the ball. However, they successfully managed the clock and were able to score a touchdown on a two-yard touchdown run by Daniel. The 2-point conversion failed and the Raiders took a 6-point lead into halftime, 22-28.
This season the Rams have been a second half team, and they would need to find a way to neutralize the Raiders’ run game and somehow steal a possession if they wanted to come away with the win. They did just that on the very first play of the second half as Smith teed up a beauty of an onside kick and Humphrey recovered it.
Despite a couple of penalties the Rams were able to score a touchdown off the legs of junior running back, Elliott Sevits to tie the game yet again at 28-28 with 10:28 to go in the third quarter. It looked like this was just the momentum change the Rams needed as the Raiders failed to convert a first down on the next drive and turned the ball over on downs. Unfortunately, the Rams also ended up turning the ball back over to the Raiders four plays later on a high snap that got away from the Rams.
Recognizing the need to take control of the game, the Raiders put together a quick score by Daniel. The lead in the game changed for the fifth time as the Raiders went up by six, 28-34 with 7:12 remaining in the third quarter. The Rams once again answered with a 7-play touchdown drive that knotted up the score…again, 34-34 with 4:45 of the third quarter still to play.
The Rams defense didn’t give up as they found an answer for the Raiders’ run game, and started putting pressure on the quarterback. The Raiders’ next drive was stopped short as they turned the ball over on downs. This was the Rams’ opportunity to regain the lead.
The Rams needed only two plays to change the lead in the game for the sixth time that night. This time it was the jet sweep to sophomore running back, Mason Windy, that did the trick. Windy found a hole from a block by junior lineman Ace Akers, and ran 57 yards to score the go-ahead TD. The score was now 40-34 with 2:14 left to play in the third quarter.
The Raiders’s ensuing drive extended into the fourth quarter, this drive was harder for the Raiders with quarterback pressures and tackles for a loss, but they were still able to score a touchdown. The Rams were given a gift however, on the 2-point conversion a wide-open Raider receiver dropped the ball. Thus the game was tied yet again, this time at 40-40.
It was still early in the fourth quarter,but the Raiders knew that now they needed to gain a possession on the Rams to take the lead. They went for the onside kick, and it paid off, the Raiders recovered the ball. Now they just needed to take advantage of this special teams win.
This is apparently where the Rams decided to draw a line in the sand, the Raiders did put together seven more plays, three were for a loss or no gain. Then, on the eighth play of that drive, on fourth down with three yards to go, the Raiders’ QB was pressured, he scrambled out of the pocket and pitched the ball to the left, the ball was caught and then fumbled, it was picked up by Humphrey and returned 70 yards for the scoop and score. The swinging gate did the trick as the Rams were able to convert the 2-point attempt and the lead changed for the seventh, and final, time of the game as the Rams went up on the Raiders 48-40 with only 7:52 remaining in the game.
The Raiders now had their backs against the wall and were feeling the time crunch, they went away from their bread and butter and started to pass. Senior defensive end Aiddin Sly made his presence known on this possession in a big way, first with pressure to the quarterback, then with a sack, and then with a pressure that led to a tackle for a loss and a fumble. That fumble was recovered by sophomore cornerback Brody Weaver.
The Rams took over on the Raiders 31-yard-line and went to work to extend their lead. It only took them three plays to do so, as Smith connected with Sevits in the flat and the result was a touchdown. Knowing that they needed all the points they could get, the Rams offense would not be denied those coveted two points on the conversion attempt. Smith was flushed out of the pocket and rolled back and to the left, while backpedaling he launched the ball to Sevits who caught in the back corner of the endzone. Watching their improvisational play might remind one of Mahomes and Kelce. Or as Coach Randall simply put it, “That’s just playmakers making plays.” The end result is that the Rams put even more distance between themsleves and the Raiders as the score was now 56-40 with a mere 4:31 left on the game clock.
It was not impossible for the Raiders to score two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions in that amount of time to tie up the game yet again, but it wasn’t to be as Akers intercepted the ball on the eighth play of the Raiders’ answering drive to seal the victory for the Rams.
The Rams’ defensive success in the second half came from a renewed vigor on the line of scrimmage and repeated pressures on the quarterback. Over and over the Rams players found their way into the backfield to disrupt play. Senior Noah Pross, junior Isaiah Arnold, sophomore Lathan Martin, senior Karsyn Elliott, sophomore Deacon Schoonover, and junior Elliott Sevits all played a major part in this shift. Mayson Humphrey proved why he was the Defensive Player of the Year for the Central River League North Division with his fumble recovery and return for a touchdown. It is also fitting that one of the unsung heroes of any football game, a lineman, (in this case Ace Akers) would get the interception that would clinch the win for the Rams. On a less positive note, the defense also suffered a set back during the game as sophomore defenseive end, Gus Williams, broke his ankle and will be out for the remainder of the season.
The Rams and the Raiders both possessed the ball twelve times during the game. The Rams were able to score eight touchdowns (one was a defensive score), while the Raiders scored six touchdowns. Both teams struggled to convert the 2-point attempt. The Rams only converted half of theirs, going four of eight. The Raiders converted only two of their six attempts. While the Raiders season was brought to an abrupt end, they fought hard for the win, but came up short. Game recognizes game, and the Raiders brought all they had to the field that night. Hats off to them for a battle well fought.
The Rams will travel to Grant City to face the Worth County Tigers for a state quarterfinal game. The Tigers are 10-1 this season and will likely be viewed as the favorite in the game, which is to be played at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 18th. The Rams would no doubt be encouraged in their quest to upset the Tigers if they could see a lot of Ram fans in the stands.