RACELAND Russell wanted to have a short memory after letting a victory slip away in the final 20 seconds last week.
Fortunately for the Red Devils, Raceland kept giving them a short field on Friday night in the 2020 edition of the Rail Cities Bowl.
Russell quickly turned the page and closed the latest chapter in a turbulent season with a 41-21 win at Ram Stadium.
“All week, every time I thought about that game, it felt like someone punched me in the stomach,” Russell coach T.J. Maynard said about last week’s loss to West Carter. “It gives you a sick feeling. Every Friday night, it gives you an opportunity to go out and prove yourself. When you have a game in hand and you don’t finish it, it really sticks with you.”
“I thought our kids bounced back,” he added. “They did very well in practice. We were a little lethargic earlier in the week, but as it went on, we got out of that. When you have a rivalry game after that situation, it really helps. Playing a great team like Raceland, it really gets your kids’ attention.”
The Red Devils were longing to finish drives and make big plays after consecutive setbacks heading into their regular season finale. Quarterback Charlie Jachimczuk and the offense wasted little time after Raceland scored on its first possession to answer right back with a statement of their own.
It took just two plays for Jachimczuk to find Mason Lykins open down the center of the field. The sophomore sprinted past the secondary to haul in the long pass. He found nothing but green grass in front of him on his way to a 65-yard touchdown.
Lykins said the mindset all week has been to treat the rivalry game as a postseason matchup and continue that way of thinking into next week.
“We wanted to get the playoffs started off right, and we wanted to start it now,” Lykins said. “We are coming off two losses in a row. We just wanted to get our business done.”
For the second straight season, Raceland’s Conner Hughes faced the Russell defense in his first action of the year under center. Senior quarterback Jake Heighton was not in attendance as a precaution after a family member tested positive for COVID-19.
Hughes entered the game last year against the Red Devils after Heighton left the field with the injury. The Rams signal-caller struck first Friday after an opening 11-play drive culminated with his 2-yard TD run midway through the first quarter.
“Conner competes really hard,” Raceland coach Michael Salmons said. “He is what Raceland football is all about. He is a team-first and effort guy. What you saw tonight, that is who he is. We will go into any football game with Conner Hughes. We have no concerns about that.”
Near the end of the first quarter, Raceland (4-5) coughed up the football in its own territory. Russell recovered and took advantage of the miscue. The Red Devils kept it on the ground, going six plays in two minutes, and finishing with Ethan Oborne finding a hole around the left side for a 9-yard sprint to the end zone.
“We were able to make some big plays,” Maynard said. “A lot of it was off play-action. We were able to get a couple of guys behind them. Mason Lykins made a big play and so did Ethan. Charlie had a lot of confidence sitting in the pocket to make those throws. We figured it would be a hard-fought game.”
The Oborne connection set up another Russell score after halftime. Doug Oborne hooked up with Jachimczuk for a 60-yard pass play to put the Red Devils in the red zone. Ethan followed with his second rushing TD of the night on the next play.
Lykins caught three balls for 95 yards. Jachimczuk was awarded the Russell Player of the Game. He completed five passes, two of them to Lykins for touchdowns.
“Mason was really important for us,” Maynard said. “He had a big game tonight. We have had guys step up all year. ... Mason, Hunter Martin, Doug Oborne and Carson Patrick can all make plays. You can’t just key on one of those guys. Tonight, it was Mason.”
Russell (6-2) secured three takeaways in the contest and the Red Devils scored touchdowns off each Rams turnover. An interception allowed the offense to stretch the lead later in the third frame. Nathan Conley found the edge on his way into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown. The senior has battled an ankle injury but found his stride on a 46-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
It only took three plays for Lykins to capitalize on a Rams fumble. He took a short pass from Jachimczuk and outran the defense for his second score of the night.
Lykins said that he and his quarterback have developed chemistry after months of hard work.
“(Charlie) has a nice touch on the ball,” Lykins said. “He makes good reads. We worked together in the offseason. We were always passing at the field.”
Raceland fought back in the final stanza to put two touchdowns on the board. Hughes found Parker Fannin in the corner of the end zone for a dazzling 22-yard scoring strike. Landyn Newman added a late touchdown catch for the Rams. Hughes was named Raceland’s Player of the Game.
Salmons said the turnovers were just too much to overcome.
“The margin of error in championship football is small,” Salmons said. “Russell has a good football team. When you turn the ball over, it makes a challenging game that much more challenging. No one can overcome that in championship football. It will be something we are focused on in the coming week.”
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RUSSELL 7 7 20 7 — 41
RACELAND 7 0 0 14 — 21
Ra—Conner Hughes 2 run (Peyton Ison kick) 5:42
Ru—Mason Lykins 65 pass from Charlie Jachimczuk (Nathan Totten kick) 4:54
Ru—Ethan Oborne 9 run 10:14 (Blake Hern kick) 10:14
Ru—Oborne 16 run (kick failed) 5: 03
Ru—Nathan Conley 7 run (Hern kick) 2:46
Ru—Lykins 26 pass from Jachimczuk (Hern kick) :51.7
Ra—Parker Fannin 22 pass from Hughes (Ison kick) 8:59
Ru—Conley 46 run (Hern kick) 7:14
Ra—Landyn Newman 31 pass from Hughes (Ison kick) 1:14
First Downs 11 17
Rushes-Yards 31-143 46-228
Comp-Att-Int 5-9-0 12-18-1
Passing Yards 175 111
Penalties-Yards 5-33 3-30
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Punts-Avg. 2-30.5 2-23
Russell rushing: T. Oborne 8-40, Jachimczuk 8-25, Snedegar 7-21, Conley 4-61, Crews 3-7, Goheen 1-(-11).
Raceland rushing: Wallace 14-72, Hughes 21-93, Meade 9-60, Newman 2-3.
Russell passing: Jachimczuk 5 of 9 for 175 yards.
Raceland passing: Hughes 12 of 18 for 111 and 1 int.
Russell receiving: Lykins 3-95, Goheen 1-20, D. Oborne 1-60.
Raceland passing: Newman 6-62, Gallion 2-11, Fannin 3-38, Wallace 1-0.