Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 30, 2013

Ram road meets end

Turnovers, failed fourth downs doom Raceland

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

WILLIAMSBURG — Rodney Vance zipped across the middle of the field unobstructed.

The play Raceland coaches had just drawn up at halftime was working, seemingly to perfection.

With the Rams trailing 14-7 early in the third quarter, quarterback Adam Elkins eyed his target and released a quick throw that would undoubtedly gain a good chunk of yardage.

That's when the Class A state semifinal game took a decisive turn, one that ultimately led to the end of Raceland's road. Williamsburg pulled away from a tight contest, winning 34-7 with a dominant second-half performance at Rose-Stanfill Stadium.

“We’re disappointed but we’re not crushed,” said Raceland coach T.J. Maynard. “This group knows they’ve accomplished a lot. It’s been a special season.”

Soon after the ball left Elkins’s fingertips, it found others. Williamsburg’s Chris Helton deflected it before teammate Stone Hughett corralled it for an interception.

“That (play) was something we came up with at halftime,” Maynard said. “Rodney was wide open, but (Helton and Hughett) made a play.”

While Raceland’s defense brought up a third-and-14 just five plays later, Dalton Sizemore hooked up with Chase Lowrie for a 15-yard TD pass to put the Yellow Jackets ahead 20-7.

Williamsburg (11-2) took off from there, putting the clamps on the Rams’ offense and following the lead of its big quarterback on its own offense.

Sizemore was 16 of 28 for 191 yards and three touchdowns — Lowrie caught two of those. Sizemore also rushed for 84 yards and a score.

The Yellow Jackets skyrocketed to a 14-0 advantage in the first six minutes. Sizemore was 6 of 6 for 70 yards on the first drive, which ended with a 17-yard Lowrie TD reception.

Following a Raceland three-and-out, Sizemore stormed through a gap for a 52-yard scamper, setting up his 2-yard TD rush.

“They caught us off-guard a little bit, because they're so fast,” Maynard said.

The Rams (11-3) answered by forcing punts on five consecutive Yellow Jacket possessions.

“Personally, I wasn't really worried about (being down 14-0),” said senior lineman Alec Risner. “I know we're a comeback team. We’d been in these situations before. I knew we could come back.”

Sophomore Carson Christian keyed a charge in the running game. He carried three times for 30 yards during an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by a Daylin Beach 10-yard TD run.

Beach finished with a team-high 80 yards on 19 carries. Christian, meanwhile, exited during that drive with a lower leg injury.

"Down 14-7, you're feeling pretty good about yourself," said Maynard. "We settled down and were playing really well, but we couldn't get enough sustained offensively."

Williamsburg's defensive line played a big role in that denial.

Whether it was third-and-2 or fourth-and-1, Helton, Hughett, Collin Lammorie and Ethan Wilson threw up a wall. Several of the stops deterred once-promising possessions.

"You've got to give them a lot of credit," Maynard said. "They're aggressive up front, really quick. We came up short each time."

"Our D-line is just playing phenomenal right now," said Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron, in his 11th year on the staff. "They just loaded up the box and made it hard for them to run the ball all night."

Raceland turned the ball over on downs twice in the second half on failed fourth-and-1 attempts, both run plays up the middle — with one being out of the wildcat formation.

Overall, the Rams had four turnovers on downs and two interceptions.

Williamsburg committed just one turnover — a takeaway by Raceland's Maverick Dixon that marked his eighth interception of the season.

The Yellow Jackets retaliated with a Corey Shelton pick on the very next possession.

Shelton employed three knee-buckling jukes as he took a short pass from Sizemore 24 yards to paydirt. Williamsburg led 27-7 with 8:58 remaining.

Jefferson Patrick accounted for the Yellow Jackets' final score.

Williamsburg will take on Mayfield in the program's first-ever state championship game appearance on Friday in Bowling Green.

"This is an unbelievable night for the school, the town and the program," said Herron, a Williamsburg graduate. "Raceland's a good football team. They're well-coached and they really play hard. Man, they're really big and strong."

Fans, most of whom had to stand because the bleachers filled up quickly, numbered large in support of both schools.

Maynard wasn't surprised with the Raceland contingent.

"We know our community supports football, and they always come out and support the Rams," he said. "We're blessed to have that following. Hopefully we do this again, and hopefully we're in this game each and every year."

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.