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By Sara Smith
Friday, October the 13th found the Rams at Staley High School in North Kansas City to take on the Northland Christian Trailblazers. No doubt the three-hour drive seemed less of an impossition when the players realized what kind of complex they would be playing in. The sprawling complex featured a massive football facility with a turf field.
The Rams entered Week 8 with a record of 6-2, averaging around 60 points per game, they were ranked #10 in the state for 8-man football and #1 in their district. The Rams standing in the district is the one that team has been keeping their eye on because it determines their playoff schedule. As it stands, the Rams are one game ahead of the North Shelby Raiders in the number one seed which would earn the Rams a bye week, a crucial benefit this late in the season.
On the other side of the ball, Northland Christian came to the field with a 2-5 record, a young team, and a predominately passing offense, averaging over 160 passing yards per game versus under 50 rush yards. The evening was brisk with a gusty winding blowing 16- 28 mph which seemed likely to affect their game in a big way.
During the opening kickoff the Rams did an onside kick and were able to recover the ball, starting the drive in excellent field position. The first play from scrimmage was an homage to the unsung players that make the offense work, as Caden Veatch took a break from his typical center position to take the snap while offensive guard, Ace Akers awaited the handoff in the backfield. Akers rattled off a 7-yard gain, allowing some of the guys that he normally blocks for to block for him instead. The second play, saw a return of the Rams regular offense, and it set about doing what it does. The wind would be a factor in the pass game, but didn’t seem to slow down the Rams offense. In just two more plays, the Rams would have a touchdown and a 2-point conversion as they roared to an early 8-0 lead.
The Trailblazer’s next drive was brought to an abrupt halt by senior cornerback, Mayson Humphrey as he intercepted the ball and returned it to the Trailblazer 11 yard line. Two more plays to add another touchdown for the Rams, another 2-point conversion and the Rams extend their early lead to 16-0.
Looking to get something started, the Trailblazers started their second drive only to be stopped by the Ram defense as the ball was turned over on downs. This time it took only one play, and a lot of running by Humphrey, for the Rams to get another touchdown. On the stat sheet Humphrey had a 34-yard reception for a touchdown. The distance Humphrey actually ran is another matter as he caught a short pass in the flat and then made a zigzag pattern as he ran all the way from one side of the field to the other and back again before finally finding his way into the endzone, running closer to 75 yards than 34. In an interview after the game, Humphrey was asked about this play and his response was “..not a lot of thinking, I just kind of run everywhere.”
At this point, however, things were already looking pretty bleak for the Trailblazers as they trailed the Rams 24-0. Things would go from bad to worse for Northland Christian as senior Noah Pross would recover the onside kick for the Rams. Once again, the Rams would capitalize on their excellent field position with a 2-play drive for another touchdown and 2-point conversion, making the score 32-0 with 5:12 still to play in the first quarter.
The first half was completely dominated by the Rams on offense, defense, and special teams. Only twice during the entire game did the Rams fail to score a touchdown on a drive. One such drive was on the Rams seventh drive of the first half. The Rams were putting together their longest drive yet, staring in their own territory for once, they were steadily working their way down the field with runs, and passes out to the flat. However, an incompletion, a few short gains, and a holding penalty later and the Rams found themselves at fourth and 14. On the Rams 10th play of that drive they tried the classic flea flicker in a mad attempt to get the first down, but the wind interfered and it was intercepted by the Trailblazers and returned to the Schuyler 25 yard line.
The Trailblazers now had their best field position of the night, 1 minute and 59 seconds on the clock before halftime, and their most favorable opportunity to score. They put their hurry-up offense to work trying to take advantage of this boon. Seven plays later, with only 15 seconds remaining in the half, the Trailblazers were on the scoreboard with a touchdown. However, they failed to convert the 2-point attempt, and the teams retired to their locker rooms with the Rams ahead 38-6.
The last second score by the Trailblazers had implications for the Rams in the second half as it mathematically eliminated the running clock…at least until the Rams scored again. (To have a running clock in the second half the point differential must be 35 or more.)
The Rams were to receive the ball at the start of the second half. Knowing they needed to keep the ball out of the Rams hands the Trailblazers tried an onside kick, this crucial possession was secured by freshman Anthony Zelaya. The Rams used a little over a minute to go four plays to score a touchdown with an off-tackle run by junior running back, Elliott “The Tank” Sevits. He ran right up the middle all night long, he didn’t have a negative yardage run all night.
With the running clock now secured, the Rams offense slowed it down, using all of the play clock and staying in bounds to keep the time ticking away. While the Ram defense would continue to contain the Trailblazers. Northland Christian would score again in the fourth quarter, but it was irrelevant at that point, as the game had already been handily won by the Rams.
With eight touchdowns on the night it would be reasonable to assume that the Rams would have off-the-chart stats, but with starting field position in Trailblazer territory for most of the night the Rams had pretty tame stats on the night. Senior quarterback, Connor Smith connected on 15 of his 21 passing attempts for 147 yards and three touchdowns, on the other end of the ball he caught four 2-point conversion passes, one of which was a tremendous one-handed grab in the back corner of the endzone. The wind also affected the receiving yards for the core receivers as senior wide receiver, Humphrey had ten catches for 108 yards, and three receiving touchdowns, one carry for six rushing yards, and two rushing 2-point conversions. Sevits had two catches for 17 yards, and sophomore running back, Mason Windy, had four receptions for 22 yards.
The ground game had more success, and the coaching staff got a bit more creative with it. There was the aforementioned rush by junior right tackle, Ace Akers for seven yards, additionally senior Karysn Elliott got a carry for a touchdown and a receiving 2-point conversion. Freshman Casey Starrett got a carry during the game for a two yard gain. Normally, the Rams junior middle linebacker, Isaiah Arnold spends most of his time making tackles, but for a change of pace on this night he had three carries for 17 yards. Windy also had five rushes for 71 yards and one rushing 2-point conversion. Sevits rounded out the rushing game for the Rams with thirteen carries for 90 yards, three touchdowns, one rushing 2-point conversion and one passing 2-point conversion on the night.
On defense, the Rams sought to spread out the playing time and get more players some in-game reps. As a result, the list of players with defensive tackles on the night is a long one. Junior linebacker, Arnold tops the tackle count with eight, two for a loss. Sophomore Brody Bragg, freshman Casey Starrett, and sophomore Brody Weaver each made an impact with five tackles on the night, Weaver made one of those tackles really count with a quarterback sack. Elliott, sophomore Colin Oliver, senior Aden Snider, and Veatch all got into the mix with three tackles apiece. Contributing two tackles each were Sevits, Humphrey, and Pross. While the following players added to the Ram defense with one tackle each: senior Aiddin Sly, sophomore Mason Windy, sophomore Deacon Schoonover, sophomore Brandon Burns, and sophomore Gus Williams.
Next week, the Rams end their three-week away-game stretch with a home game. This is the last game of the regular season, and is the school, and community’s, opportunity to celebrate the seniors. The Senior Night game will be played versus the 1-7 Slater Wildcats. The Wildcats are coming to Schuyler fresh off their first victory of the season versus the Knox County Eagles. Certainly, they would like nothing better than to upset the Rams at home. Come out on Friday, October 20th at 7:00 p.m. to see what Coach Randall and the Rams can do to add another tally to the win column.