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Schuyler Rams Defeat Knox County Eagles in District Semifinals
by Sara Smith
On Friday, November 3, 2023 the Rams hosted the Knox County Eagles. As a district semifinal game it was win-or-go-home time.
The Eagles were coming off of a win versus Paris the previous week while the Rams sat out that week with a well-earned bye. Would the Rams be rusty or well-rested?
The Rams visited the Knox County Eagles on August 25th, during the opening game of the season. The conditions that night were brutal, temperatures in the 90s prompted the decision-makers to push back the start time to 8:00 p.m. Although the game got off to a late start, the first half of play was back and forth. The Rams went into halftime with an eight point lead. Coach Randall must have made some adjustments at halftime because the Rams ran away with the game in the second half, coming away with a 54-26 victory.
However, this was not Week 1, this was Week 11. Both teams are now more experienced, and possibly, have different personnel. For the Rams, senior all-purpose player Kale Windy was injured in Week 6 at Braymer and would not be returning this season. Despite being out for the last three weeks of regular season Kale Windy was voted Honorable Mention Athlete and 2nd Team Defensive Back for the Central River League North Conference based on the strength of his play. His loss has required an adjustment by the Rams, and thus far they have met the challenge.
The game got off to a discouraging start for the Eagles as the Rams recovered the onside kick to immediately steal a possession from the Eagles. Two plays later and the Rams had a touchdown on a 34-yard pass from senior quarterback, Connor Smith, to senior wide receiver Mayson Humphrey. Add the 2-point conversion and the Rams roared out to an 8-0 lead in just 42 seconds.
The Eagles first possession of the game resulted in a turnover on downs. The Rams took over on their own 37-yard line and once again the offense did what it does. Five plays later, Humphrey showed why he is the #1 receiver in the state as he turned a short pass in the flat into a 30-yard touchdown. He was aided by a wall of blockers that were able to clear a path as he reversed directions to extend the play. The Rams failed to convert the 2-point attempt, making the lead 14-0 in favor of the Rams with 8:19 remaining in the first quarter.
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The Eagles were able to find their feet and set about chipping away at the Rams lead. On the very next possession the Eagles put together a seven-play, 45-yard touchdown drive primarily off of the legs of their senior quarterback and their senior running back. This would not be the last we would hear of either of them. With 4:41 still to play in the first quarter the Eagles had closed the gap to 14-6.
To end the first quarter, the Rams regained their two-score advantage with a nine-play drive that was capped off by another pass from Smith to Humphrey for a touchdown. Failing to convert the 2-point try the score was now 20-6 with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Eagles fired right back to answer with a five-play drive that resulted in a touchdown, bringing them back to within one score at 20-14. On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles pooch kicked into no-man’s-land and were able to recover the kick. This turn of events signaled a change in momentum to the Eagles side as they headed down the field trying to tie up the game. However, after seven plays, including a sack by junior defensive back Isaiah Arnold and three incomplete passes, the Eagles turned the ball back over to the Rams on downs.
The Rams were also unable to capitalize on this shift in momentum as Smith’s pass was intercepted by the Eagles, and this time the Eagles were able to take advantage of the turnover. They scored a touchdown on the third play of that drive on a double handoff that wasn’t quite a reverse and wasn’t quite a jet sweep. The game was now all knotted up at 20 with 4:33 left in the half. Little did the Eagles know that this would be their last score of the game.
The Rams marched down the field to score another touchdown before the end of the half, and just like in Week 1, the Rams went into halftime with an eight-point lead. The Knox County Eagles had given them all they wanted in the first half, but the second half would be all Rams.
When the dust settled the Rams handed the Eagles a 72-20 loss. The Eagles fought valiantly, but as the Rams’ lead widened, the Eagles had to get away from their bread and butter, the run game, and their passing game just wasn’t able to get the job done. Pressure on the quarterback was a large part of the issue as sophomore defensive lineman Gus Williams seemed to be able to rush the quarterback at will.
The Rams won the turnover differential as the defense was able to force three turnovers on downs, four interceptions, and one fumble, which was recovered by freshman Caleb Garr in the fourth quarter. Although not technically a turnover, the Eagles were also forced to punt in the third quarter.
The Rams controlled the line of scrimmage on offense as well. Smith had 12 completions on 17 attempts for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Junior running back, Elliott Sevits, carried the ball 22 times for 210 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore running back, Mason Windy carried the ball three times for 64 yards and one touchdown. Freshman running back, Casey Starret had one carry for 33 yards and sophomore running back, Brody Bragg carried the ball one time for a 23- yard touchdown run. Humphrey had 11 receptions for 190 yards and three touchdowns, he also had an impressive interception in the fourth quarter with a 66-yard return for another touchdown.
No matter how you slice it, it was a complete team win. However, the Rams did turnover the ball three times, something they will need to clean up as they host the North Shelby Raiders in the District Championship on Friday, November 10th. The Rams reeled off a resounding win versus the Raiders in Week 4 with a score of 60-14. However, the Rams will face a rejuvenated team since that meeting, as the Raiders have not lost a game since.