Not many teams are able to come into ‘The Rock’ at West Portsmouth and steal a victory, but that’s exactly what the Raceland Rams were able to do Friday night by defeating the Senators by a final score of 27-15.
The game started off very back and forth as both teams were unable to generate much on offense in the onset. It took until nearly halfway through the second quarter to get the first points on the board when Raceland quarterback Jacob Heighton found newly eligible wide receiver Ethan Cox for a 16 yard touchdown pass, Cox’ first TD of the night.
The Senators would attempt to drive the ball into the endzone on their last play before half from the 10 yard line with just one second remaining in the half. When the ball was snapped to West senior quarterback Dylan Bradford, many players did not think it was a live play. But to the Rams credit, Derek Pennington played the play out to its entirety by intercepting Bradford’s pass in their own endzone and attempting to run the ball out before being tackled after a near 30 yard return. Raceland would take their 7-0 lead into the half.
On the first drive of the second half, West faced a 4th and 3 from the 50 yard line before Senators head coach Ben Johnson decided to call a fake punt which worked in the Senators’ favor as Cole Staggs took the ball for a 39 yard rush to the Raceland 11 yard line. Johnson said that the trickery at midfield was designed and it worked to perfection. “Yeah it was designed” said Johnson, “Something we practice every week. It seemed like a good time to use it, and it worked out great.” The drive would result in a touchdown for West as Bradford found fullback Sid Shifflet in the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 7-7 at the 9:02 mark in the third quarter.
On the ensuing Rams drive, they did not waste time retaking the lead they held for nearly a quarter as Heighton once again found Ethan Cox for a 57 yard touchdown pass with 8:14 left in the third quarter, one in which Cox flew past all of the Senator defenders that stood in between him and the endzone. This was Cox’ first game eligible after transferring from Boyd County this season. Johnson said following the game they did not realize he would be playing in this game and with no tape from this season on him, were not expecting his two touchdown performance tonight. After the blocked extra point, Raceland once again led 13-7.
Following some back and forth in the punting game, West was once again not able to stop the Raceland offensive attack. Facing a third and very long at the start of the fourth quarter, Heighton was able to find the edge for the Rams on a 49 yard rush which gave them a first down on the Senators 31 yard line. A few plays later, Hunter Lacks found the endzone for the first time on the night on an eight yard touchdown rush to give Raceland the 20-7 lead with 6:53 left in the fourth.
West had another turnover on downs late in the fourth which set up Raceland’s final scoring drive of the night. The Rams were able to convert first down after first down, slowly burning the clock down to ensure their victory. The drive was capped off by another Lacks rushing touchdown with 2:08 left in the game. Raceland would lead 27-7 with 2:08 left in the fourth quarter.
In West’s final offensive drive of the night, the Senators were able to put points on the board as Dylan Bradford connected to Trevor Staggs for a 23 yard touchdown pass. After successfully converting the two point conversion, the Senators trailed 27-15 with :47 seconds left in the fourth. West was unable to recover their onside kick attempt, sealing the game for Raceland by that same score. “You just have to give credit to them” said Johnson, “They were able to execute all the way down the field without having a mistake, penalty, or a turnover. Hats off to them. We had some chances to make some stops, make some plays. We just weren’t quite able to make those plays this evening”
West will next face the undefeated Minford Falcons to kickoff SOC play for both teams next Friday night in what will surely a great contest. Johnson knows that the start of league play means practically a whole new season for his team, “We’ve had a great start to our season. We can’t let this get our heads down too much. We have to learn from this, continue to get better, and the SOC schedule starting next week is like a whole new season, and we’re looking forward to moving on.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT