Sep 29, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Eric Ormond put it quite well as his Jamesville-DeWitt football players ran over to the large student section in the bleachers to celebrate Friday night’s 25-6 victory over Nottingham.
“We’re not building anymore,” the Red Rams’ head coach said. “The building part is done. We’ve had our growing pains, but now our players expect to be the best on a weekly basis.”
What Ormond was referring to, of course, was the long, slow, difficult process of taking a struggling football program and propelling it to the top of the Class A American division ranks.
That part of the process officially ended on this cold, misty and raw evening at J-D, where the Red Rams took over on the defensive end late in the first half and never let go, forcing the Bulldogs into five turnovers, three of them leading to 19 pivotal points.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our defense,” said Ormond. “It was A-plus, across the board.”
Going in, said Ormond, the plan for the Rams was to stay right with Nottingham’s dangerous group of skill players, who could turn routine plays into big gains by running around and wearing out pursuers.
Aside from Derrick Gore’s 23-yard scoring run midway through the second quarter, that plan worked to perfection. Start to finish, the Red Rams’ pursuit was relentless, constantly forcing Nottingham’s runners backwards and forcing multiple big losses of yardage.
So it was only fitting that a defensive play turned the game in J-D’s favor. Late in the first half, with the game tied 6-6, Nottingham had the ball on its own 37-yard line.
Taking a toss, Gore was immediately surrounded by a host of Red Rams tacklers. As they slowed Gore up, linebacker Willie Walker swiped the ball away and took off 35 yards to the other end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Turnovers happen when you get (people) to the football and make the runner uncomfortable,” said Ormond.
Ahead 12-6 at the break, J-D could not add to that margin in the third quarter. In fact, aside from a first-quarter drive of 87 yards entirely covered by fullback Rasheed Baker (he went four yards for the TD), the offense had done nothing against a solid Bulldogs resistance.
By this point, Kayvon Anderson and Taumeras Howard had intercepted Clanton passes. In the fourth quarter, Ben Honis added to that total, picking off a short Clanton offering at the Bulldogs’ 30.
Two plays later, Howard took a handoff on a sweep, found the sideline, and then cut back on a 28-yard TD run with 6:29 left, extending J-D’s lead to 18-6.
On Nottingham’s next offensive play, a reverse got fumbled and, once again, Honis came up with the ball, this time on the Bulldogs’ 24. Baker did the rest, with two powerful runs setting up his clinching two-yard plunge with 5:24 to play. For the night, Baker finished with 170 yards on 33 carries.
Since the victory moved J-D to 5-0 and all but clinched the American division regular-season title, the players celebrated accordingly, dumping a bucket of ice water on Ormond and sharing the moment with a student section that had been vocal all night – and nonexistent just a few years earlier, when the Rams were struggling.
“I feel great for the players and our students,” said Ormond. “It’s exciting for the guys who committed and worked hard every year, showing resilience and durability.”
As much as J-D wants to enjoy it, two more regular-season games remain, including next Friday’s game against Fowler, before the Section III Class A playoffs – and a real chance to shake off the Red Rams’ long shadow of struggles for good.