The “F” word has been thrown around a lot in Raceland lately.
Actually, f---- has been a common theme for the Rams throughout this unforgettable fall.
But focus can only get you so far.
They’ve maintained it week-in and week-out, regardless of opponent, and it’s paid off. They’re 11-2, with the program’s 500th win and first regional championship victory in tow.
However, it’s been a shorter “F” word that is often not discussed but has never disappeared. It’s played just as important a role.
Raceland simply knows how to have it.
From top to bottom and seniors to freshmen, a vivacious, spirited attitude has created a loose culture inside the Rams’ locker room.
“Sometimes I’ll walk in (the locker room) and they’ll be in there dancing, they’ve got music on, just enjoying time together,” said Raceland coach T.J. Maynard. “That’s going a long way in how they’re playing.”
Minutes after the clock hit zeroes to conclude the Rams’ 14-3 defeat of Pikeville on a rain-soaked Friday night, players engaged in mudball fights, belly-slid on the gooey ground and danced in the dampness.
After a rare full weekend off, it was back to business on Monday.
“These guys are goofy,” said quarterbacks coach Scott Grizzle. The 25-year-old was the Rams’ QB in the mid-2000s. “We had good times when I was playing, but we didn’t have anything like this.
“But,” he continued, “they know how to turn it, too. On Friday night at 7:30, they’re focused.”
Williamsburg (10-2) awaits the Rams tonight in the Class A state semifinals.
The Yellow Jackets are responsible for some incredible numbers in recent weeks. Their defense has given up only 20 total points since Sept. 27. They’re 7-0 in those contests, having scored 324 total points and tossing five shutouts. Overall, they’ve won eight straight.
Williamsburg’s losses came against North Laurel, a Class 5A school that went 8-3, and Wayne County, a 3A school that is 13-0 and is still playing.
Senior quarterback Dalton Sizemore leads the charge on offense.
Sizemore’s passing numbers: 146 of 253 for 2,556 yards; 28 touchdowns, six interceptions.
He’s also difficult to tackle, having tallied 414 rushing yards and 11 scores on 108 carries.
“He’s a really good quarterback,” Maynard said. “The Sizemore kid can really throw the thing, gets it out of his hands really quick. They also have two good receivers and a nice fullback.”
Maynard thought of a Raceland comparison for Sizemore.
“He kind of reminds you of a Tyler Farley,” said Maynard, referring to the Adam Elkins’ predecessor at quarterback. “He’s a bigger kid with a great arm and moves well for his size.”
Leading pass-catchers are Skyler Griffith and Corey Shelton, each with 44 receptions. Shelton has 990 yards and 13 TDs, while Griffith owns 848 yards and 11 TDs.
Patrick Jefferson averages 9.4 rushing yards a carry (on 70 attempts) and has 12 scores.
Defensively, Williamsburg is similar to Fairview, said Maynard.
“They’ll lock you up man and bring pressure,” Maynard said. “They run to the ball well. Because it reminds us of Fairview (a familiar opponent), hopefully that can go to our favor.”
Raceland once again will have the size advantage on the front lines.
The Rams’ steadily improving defensive backs will be put to the test. Cornerback Josh Young has been near the top in tackles on the team throughout the postseason. Safety Connor Messer picked off nine passes last year and three this season. Corner Maverick Dixon possesses a team-best seven picks.
The pregame plan, as of Wednesday, was to depart Raceland at 10 a.m. today, stop and conduct a quick practice at Eastern Kentucky University to break up the trip, and hop back on board the school bus for the remainder of the 145-mile journey.
As for if the playoff journey will continue, that’s to be determined. Maynard is confident in his fun-loving bunch.
“There’s no reason to doubt them at this point,” Maynard said. “As long as they’re still having fun and still enjoying playing, they’ve got a chance.”
Snyder says: Raceland 24, Williamsburg 20.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.