Rams Get Revenge Win Over Lovelady, 43-28
After last year’s 33-16 bi-district playoff loss to Lovelady, Joaquin Head Coach Wade Lawson walked into the Ram field house on Monday morning and circled a date. September 15th, 2017. That’s when the Rams would get the Lions for the third time in 12 months, this time in the sometimes not-so-friendly confines of Ram Stadium. Lawson encouraged his returning players to remember the bitter taste of the playoff defeat, and use it as motivation to prepare for a bigger and better 2017.
The Rams only needed one minute and one second to post a lead they would never relinquish, as they ran roughshod over the rebuilding Lions for four quarters to post a 43-28 victory. Along the way, they piled up 23 first downs along with 402 rushing yards, which saw three different backs hit triple digits. Add a 3 of 4 for 67 yards passing night by quarterback Tray Wilkerson, and the Rams totaled 469 yards of offense against a defense that should most definitely make the playoffs again.
The Rams caught the Lion defense off guard on their first snap, with Wilkerson finding Connor Bragg for a 31 yard pass completion. Three plays later, Hunter Gates dashed in from the 19 yard line. Jesus Bravo booted the PAT, giving the Rams a 7-0 early lead. The Lions came right back, marching 61 yards in three plays, finished off by a 31 yard touchdown pass from Colt Robinson to TreVion Hawkins. The try for two failed, leaving the Rams up 7-6 with 10:02 left in the first quarter.
That was as close as they would get for the rest of the evening. A Ram punt pinned the Lions in the shadow of their own goalpost, and a big stop by the defense forced a Lion punt, which Bragg fair caught at the Lion 45. The Rams needed six plays to extend the lead, with Bragg going in from 22 yards out at the 3:49 mark in the first quarter.
The Lions looked to be putting another drive together, but junior linebacker Trenton Ramsey picked off Robinson at the Ram 42, and returned it to the Lovelady 18 to set up a 13 yard Joseph Tarver touchdown. The Lions cut into the lead with a ten yard pass from Robinson to Michael Price, and Robinson added the two-pointer on a keeper to keep the Lions within eight, 22-14 with 6:57 left in the half. Bragg added an 11 yard touchdown run with 1:52 left in the second period, and Bravo’s PAT made it 29-14 as the teams went to the halftime break.
The third quarter was a defensive struggle, as neither team managed to find paydirt. But the fireworks started again in the fourth, with Wilkerson scoring on a five yard run. The PAT stretched the lead to 36-14 with 11:24 left on the clock. The Lions refused to go down easily, though, as Tim Johnson scored on a two yard run, followed up by Robinson’s two-point conversion run with 4:59 remaining.
The Lions tried an onsides kick, which Kase Yates covered at the Ram 42. With 4:01 left, the Rams were trying to convert a 4th and 1, which would likely have set them up to run out the clock. Wilkerson executed a quarterback sneak, which was so well done that he scored from 51 yards out. The PAT made it 43-22 with 4:01 left in the contest. Colt Robinson hooked up with his brother, Jay Thomas Robinson to make it 43-28 with 2:35 left, as the try for two failed. After Yates covered another onsides kick, the Rams were able to run out the clock to preserve the win.
Offensively, the Rams were led by sophomore tailback Connor Bragg, who picked up 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, while catching 3 passes for 67 yards. Senior quarterback Tray Wilkerson added 101 yards and a pair of scores on nine tries, while completing 3 of 4 pass attempts for 67 yards. Junior halfback Hunter Gates ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on ten carries. Senior running back Kase Yates was the workhorse, gaining 80 tough yards on 15 carries. Junior Joseph Tarver ran the ball six times for 21 yards and a score. Bragg, in a post game interview, credited the offensive line, and his teammates with his big night. “Our line did a good job of creating holes and sealing the edge.
They were keyed on stopping 234, our bread and butter play, but because of that, the jet sweep was there all night, and there was nobody out there on the edge but the cornerback. When I was able to get by him, I knew we had big gains. Coach Jones (Jared Jones, Offensive Coordinator) did a good job of taking what they were giving us.
The Ram defense was led by junior linebacker Trenton Ramsey, who posted 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and an interception which he returned 38 yards. Ramsey stated “Our defensive line played great. Those guys did a good job taking on blocks and freeing me and Ian up to make plays. A lot of times we’re just cleaning things up after Zach (Bell, nosetackle) or Lane (Bates, defensive tackle) make first contact. It’s really easy playing behind those guys.” Sophomore defensive end Boogie Lane recorded 8 stops, 2 for loss, and quarterback sack. Classmate Ian Shahan made eight tackles as well, with two of them behind the line of scrimmage. Junior Tre Burns made six tackles, two for losses, and sack. Junior safety Jesus Farias added four tackles and an interception.
Coach Lawson was happy with the win, but still sees progress to be made. “Hey, I’m not gonna lie, I’m thrilled to get a win over this bunch, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We did not finish strong like we wanted to. Our defense in the fourth quarter was not very strong. It’s easy for kids to relax when you’ve got a big lead like that, but we gave up way too much easy yardage there. Good teams like this can use that to come back and bite us. But I was proud of the way we attacked early on. I think that first drive kind of set the tone for how we wanted to go after them.”
The Rams (2-1) will hit the road next Friday, traveling to Huntington to take on the Class 4A Red Devils. Huntington (1-2) defeated West Hardin by a score of 31-14 on Friday. Kickoff at Red Devil Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.
2017 Joaquin Rams (2-1)
Sept. 1 L @ Tenaha 23-22
Sept. 8 W vs. Maud 58-7
Sept. 15 W vs. Lovelady 43-22
Sept. 22 @ Huntington 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs. Hawkins** 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 BYE
Oct. 13 @ Alto* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 @ Shelbyville* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 vs. Carlisle* 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 3 @ San Augustine* 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 vs. Cushing* 7:30 p.m.
* District game ** Homecoming