MOREHEAD Raceland coach Michael Salmons turned to a bit of motivational wisdom after his Rams battled Rowan County on Friday in Morehead.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it,” Salmons said.
Coming in off a lopsided loss last week to Russell, Raceland felt it had something to prove to someone.
That someone was itself.
After a sluggish first quarter, sophomore Conner Hughes found rhythm behind a four-touchdown performance in his first varsity start at quarterback. The Rams were dominant in a 42-7 win over the Vikings.
“I think tonight was a direct reflection of how we prepared this week,” Salmons said. “I think last week opened our eyes a little bit and humbled us, and that’s OK. In Week 2, you don’t want to be your best. You want your best in Week 12, 13, 14 and, God willing, 15. I think our senior leadership was really good this week.”
The Rams’ senior playmakers were pretty good as well.
Led by Gunnur Lewis and Ethan Cox, Hughes found the dynamic duo twice each for scores.
Cox showed off his speed and agility on his first score after turning a 2-yard screen pass into a 35-yard scamper and score for the Rams’ second touchdown. Cox’s second demonstrated the patience of his rookie quarterback as he rolled out of the pocket and waited for his wideout to clear the last linebacker before tossing a 14-yard dart for the first points of the second half and a 29-0 Rams lead.
Lewis was just as important as Hughes floated a pass toward the end zone. The wideout elevated and snagged it for the score. But the best came last when Hughes fired a 24-yard strike to Lewis on a deep post route in blanketed coverage that Lewis grabbed and “dotted the I” before falling out of the back of the end zone for the score that started the running clock against a Vikings team that was averaging nearly 48 points per game.
“Those guys are prolific players for us,” Salmons said of Cox and Lewis. “It’s no secret that as they go, we go. They made some plays for us tonight in the pass game and got their hands on the ball some in the run game, too. There’s just some things we have to do to get those guys involved and for us to be successful they have to touch the ball.”
Added the coach: “Those guys had to make some plays for Conner and he really worked hard this week in practice.”
Hughes was 3 of 4 for 5 yards in the first quarter but went 8 of 14 for 120 yards and four TDs over the final three stanzas.
Raceland also saw a presence of something that had eluded it for much of its first two games this season — an established running game led by junior Michael Meade and senior Seth Mills.
Meade finishing with 59 yards on 12 totes. He provided the first score of the game on a 10-yard bullish run up the gut that gave the Rams their first score in six quarters.
“We have different backs and we just keep trying to work them in as we can,” Salmons said. “Happy that Michael was able to be the hot hand tonight.”
Mills chipped in with 40 yards on seven touches.
“Really happy for Seth,” Salmons said. “He hasn’t played in a couple years but he’s doing some great things in our running game and pass-blocking. Happy for him to run the ball a little better tonight. He’s a strong kid and a smart kid and that means a lot to him.”
Raceland nearly doubled its season rushing offense in the win, rolling off 160 yards on the ground and Salmons was quick to provide a reason why.
“The big thing tonight was five senior offensive linemen,” he said. “They really took pride this week by making sure we could stop the run game, because most of those guys are going both ways, and they took a lot of pride of making sure we could run the ball. We were able to do both of those tonight and when you can do both of those things, the game becomes a lot easier.”
Salmons also praised his defense, which held a rushing attack that was averaging more than 300 yards in its first two games, to fewer than 50 yards.
“Very proud of our run defense tonight,” Salmons said. “If you can do that every Friday night, you will have a shot to win.”
Nicholas Bowling added a safety on a sack of Vikings quarterback Will Cox in the second quarter and Nathaniel Bonzo made his first interception of the season.
Nick Johnson, who missed the first half due to a violation of team rules, provided the only Rowan County points with a 17-yard dash late in the fourth quarter.
Raceland moved its all-time series record to 5-0 over Rowan County in the first meeting of the two since a 45-3 Rams win in 2006.
RACELAND 0 22 7 13 — 42
ROWAN CO. 0 0 0 7 — 7
R— Michael Meade 10 run (Caleb Rowsey kick), 9:45
R— Ethan Cox 35 pass from Connor Hughes (kick fails), 5:08
R— Nicholas Bowling Safety, 4:09
R— Gunnur Lewis 11 pass from Hughes (Rowsey kick), 1:01
R—Cox 11 pass from Hughes (Rowsey kick), 6:57
R—Lewis 24 pass from Hughes (Rowsey kick), 11:54
R—Rowsey 2 run (kick fails), 7:22
RC—Nick Johnson 17 run (Nathan Besant kick), 2:16
First Downs 17 6
Rushes-Yards 38-160 29-49
Comp-Att-Int 11-19-0 4-11-1
Passing Yards 125 62
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Punts-Avg. 3-42.0 5-34.6
Penalties-Yards 2-15 4-21
Raceland rushing: Mills 7-40, Hughes 8-22, Lewis 1- (minus-1), Cox 3-12, Rowsey 4-13, Meade 12-59, Pennington 3-15.
Rowan County rushing: Johnson 3-27, Miller 3-18, Davidson 3- (minus-12), Cox 2- (minus-20), Wallace 18-36.
Raceland passing: Hughes 11 of 18 for 125 yards, Cox 0 of 1.
Rowan County passing: Cox 4 of 11 for 62 yards.
Raceland receiving: Wallace 1-15, Reeves 1-5, Lewis 3-28, Cox 6-77.
Rowan County receiving: Hill 1-6, Davidson 1-14, Wilder 1-40, Wallace 1-2.