LLOYD — Raceland has yet to play a full sharp game, by its standards, and yet ran its record to 4-0 on Friday night with a 35-13 decisive defeat of host Greenup County in the inaugural Iron Bowl.
So what must the Rams do to reach that lofty ideal of four quarters of full-throttle football?
“We gotta condition,” senior receiver/defensive back John Cherry said with the rueful grin of a teenager who’s about to have to run … a lot. “Monday, four gassers, four half-gassers, gotta run ‘em as hard as you can, get gassed.”
Raceland, even at not quite razor-edged, has been good enough this season to claim its best start in eight years. Friday followed that theme — the Rams led 7-0 at halftime despite two turnovers, a turnover on downs in the red zone on a dropped potential touchdown pass, and a missed field goal.
But once the Rams got going, they were plenty efficient, scoring four touchdowns in a span of five drives in the second half.
Raceland finished with a 459-123 edge in total offensive yardage and a 23-5 margin in first downs. Quarterback Nathaniel Davidson completed 20 of 38 passes for 277 yards. Cherry snagged 10 passes for 137 yards and a TD and intercepted two passes en route to game MVP honors for the Rams, and Bailey Walker rushed for 144 yards — 109 in the second half — and two touchdowns.
“Our guys battled all night,” Salmons said. “We played a lot of guys, and I think our depth at the end kind of pulled us through. In the fourth quarter, our guys were a little bit fresher, and we were able to make some big plays there to kind of put the game out of reach.”
Raceland led 14-0 entering the fourth quarter and had the ball at Greenup County’s 4-yard line. The Rams took advantage three plays later when Cameron Webb ran for a 3-yard touchdown on a double reverse to finally gain some separation.
Freshman Musketeers quarterback Eli Sammons and Jake Wright hooked up for a 47-yard touchdown pass to breathe life into a stagnant Greenup County offense, but Walker ran for a 70-yard touchdown after a Cherry interception, and another Cherry pick set up a 29-yard Davidson-to-Webb scoring hookup.
The Musketeers relied on their defense and special teams to hang close, but ultimately didn’t get enough offense to stay in it late.
“There’s no doubt, man, (the defense) kept us in the game,” Greenup County coach Scott Grizzle said. “Gosh, it seems like they’re on the field the whole game. We gotta have the offense to help them out some, but their effort was tremendous. To play that many snaps with your back to your own goal line all night, just a great effort by the defense.”
Sammons spelled Chase Hunt under center in the second quarter. Grizzle indicated Sammons gives Greenup County (2-2) more of an aerial threat, which the Musketeers needed once they got behind.
“We knew we had to throw it, and we just kinda feel like maybe Eli gives us a better chance through the air, to a certain extent,” Grizzle said. “But Chase does a great job as well. Right now we’re just trying to see who fits where, but they’re both gonna play, they both did a great job, and we’re just gonna keep working with both of them and try to get better.”
The Rams won for the 10th straight time against in-county competition, including six consecutive defeats of the Musketeers. They get an opportunity to extend that streak in the regular season finale against Russell.
Not that Raceland isn’t pleased and proud to own that streak, but the Rams have bigger fish to fry, and they’re never far from Raceland’s collective minds.
“We’ve had a good run with some of these county rival games, but that can turn on a moment’s notice,” Salmons said. “Kudos to our kids and all of our staff for putting in the work to be able to be successful (in those games), but the bottom line is — and I talk about this very often — the two years we made deep (postseason) runs, we were able to take care of business in the district, and we’ve gotta be able to do that. If we don’t do that, really everything else is insignificant.”
What can Raceland become if it creates productivity for 48 minutes?
“We’ve got to embrace the opportunity to be great,” Salmons said. “We’ve got the opportunity for that, we’ve got the personnel for that, but we gotta draw near together and we gotta play for the guy next to us. I think we’re doing a good job of that, (but) it hasn’t all clicked; that being said, it’s Week 4, we’ve got six more games in the regular season. We want to be playing our best football when the stakes are the highest.”
Punter Justin Davis garnered game MVP honors for the Musketeers. MVP awards were determined by the media. DSI Screenprinting sponsored the awards. Howerton Engineering was the Iron Bowl sponsor.
Reach Zack Klemme at (606) 326-2658 or at [email protected]