Run Game, Defense guides Southern Regional to late win over Lacey Township
With its backs against the wall, Southern came rushing out of the gates using the run game to withstand a Lacey comeback attempt in the second half to pull off a 25-20 Shore Conference nondivisional win Friday night to likely clinch a playoff spot.
It was the offense of the Rams who set the tone for the game, and specifically their plethora of running backs splitting carries out of the backfield.
When the running game does well, a team more times than not sets themselves up to win but in order for the run game to do well, the offensive line must perform.
"Our offensive-line I thought played a hell of a game," said Rams head coach, Chuck Donohue Sr. "I thought they played a tremendous football game up front and they got us some big runs, and our backs were able to finish. We hit the pass early to loosen the secondary up a little bit, and try and keep them out of the running game. I'm just elated to pull it out the way we did."
The Rams diverse weaponry on offense proved to be an X-factor in winning the game over the Lions.
The five Roaring Rams in the twenties, (no not quite the innovation of the roaring 1920's in America), but maybe more like the five-headed monster out of the backfield for Southern that was the difference. Stop one running back, deal with the other four.
Matt Barnett rushed the ball 15 times for 80 yards, Dane Walker had 12 rushes for 71 yards and a touchdown, Mitch Yostpile carried the ball 4 times for 12 yards, John Dolphin , carried the ball 8 times for 67 yards and a touchdown plus 2 catches for 14 yards and a touchdown, and finally Deric Vincent with a big 55-yard touchdown reception.
The game was filled with emotions from the opening kick to the Rams lining up in the victory formation in the 4th quarter to seal the win. Drama filled the cold brisk air at Southern Regional to a point where the Rams went from being in the drivers seat, to riding in the back, to moving back up front where they stayed.
Defend their home turf they did, and after receiving the opening kickoff when Lacey deferred to the second half, the Rams went on an 11-play drive resulting in an early touchdown.
On Lacey's first possession they drove 6 plays down the field which included a fumble they recovered before punting the ball away. It only took one play for the Rams to go up 13-0 when Deric Vincent caught the 57-yard touchdown reception mid-stride at 1:35 left in the first quarter.
This brought a close to the first quarter with Lacey in the midst of a nine play drive resulting in the first of three Coleton Klaus touchdown runs.
Eight plays later the Rams answered back with 5:19 left to go in the first half.
The back and forth action heading into the break continued as the Lions persevered and wouldn't be denied a comeback attempt. Seven plays later they made things interesting.
Following a punt by the Rams, the Lions tried the hurry-up offense in an effort to score before the half, but John Dolphin had other ideas.
They weren't throwing hats onto the field, maybe because it wasn't their field, but the dominating performance by the Lions quarterback continued in the second half where they took the lead.
Before the Rams even touched the ball in the second half the Lions ran 14 plays in 7:48 to open up the second half, so Southern didn't have much time left in the third quarter to score.
Despite the 20-points let up by the Rams defense, they did feature some important plays in helping the team win.
"Their (Lacey) a very good offensive team," said Donohue. "They do a lot of different things that cause a lot of problems, and tonight they did a lot of shifting."
"I believe when we came in, I felt we could run the ball in C and D gap, off-tackle and outside" said Donohue. "I thought we got a heck of a game out of Dane Walker tonight at fullback because he kept them honest inside."
A few minutes into the final frame the Rams came marching back.
The 2-pt conversion attempt was no good, but the 25-20 lead stood and ended up being the final score.
"I just think our kids are 'gutty', "said Donohue. "I think they had a lot to play for tonight, I think they had an opportunity...this is the first four year class that hasn't been to the playoffs. We had a lot of good play out of the seniors tonight, and I just believe that they 'willed' this win, they pulled together and gutted it out and did what they had to do."
Donohue adds it was that exact hunger and drive that helped as well.
"This is it, you don't win tonight your not in (to the playoffs)," said Donohue. "This was a playoff game for all intents and purposes."
"It was heart, we came out up five at halftime, we knew we had to fight," said senior running back Dane Walker. "Always kept out head-up, and just kept fighting. That's really what it came down too."
"I think the most important part of football is heart," said junior running back John Dolphin. "That's something that our team seems to have a lot of. We have a lot of fundamentals that we need to cleanup...(but) as long as you have heart, the skies the limit."
Other notable stats from Fridays game include by Rams quarterback Sam Cammarata who had 2 rushes for 15 yards to go along with 7 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
For bonus content from Friday nights coverage, watch the post-game interviews with Coach Donohue, Dane Walker, John Dolphin and Sam Cammarata:
Vin Ebenau is a Shore Sports Network Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @VinEbenau. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.