Troy Ward’s first football game as Rampart High School coach did not go according to plan.
“We’re not any different. We want to run the ball,” Ward said after the Rams fell behind early and lost 34-16 to visiting Dakota Ridge at Hatchell Field at Academy District 20 Stadium. “We weren’t able to do that tonight.”
The aim was to carry over that punishing ground game the Rams used to amass 3,228 rushing yards, including 359 in a 45-17 season-opening win over Dakota Ridge a year ago under former coach Rob Royer.
Thursday, there were few holes to be found for senior running back Chris Yoo, a Colorado School of Mines commit, who went for more than 1,300 rushing yards as a junior, or junior quarterback Cale Cormaney, who surpassed 800 rushing yards as a sophomore.
“A lot of teams that we played last year, especially, stacked like nine dudes in the box,” Yoo said. “It’s hard to run against.”
The Rams didn’t get a chance to give the run game much chance to establish itself after falling behind big early.
The Eagles took the opening kickoff into Rampart territory before penalties led to a punt. The Rams took over on their own 7-yard line and punted to their own 21 after two incomplete passes and a Yoo run that went for next to nothing.
Dakota Ridge opened the scoring a couple plays later when Mason Galbreath acrobatically hauled in a pass from Ben Gultig in the back corner of the end zone. The Eagles quarterback hit Galbreath on a slant for a second touchdown in the final 15 seconds of the first half, sending the visitors back to the locker room with a 28-7 lead.
“I think in the first half, we were a little sluggish,” Yoo said. “We were a little slow to the line. We missed our blocks.”
The only Rampart breakthrough came when Cormaney hit junior Luke Pavlica, his favorite receiving target on the night, for a 69-yard touchdown down the seam.
It was the lone bright spot for Rampart in a first half that featured two snaps that punter David Peters could not reach, the second of which gave Dakota Ridge another short field and resulted in Galbreath’s second score.
“Poor execution,” Ward said. “We spotted them the first two quarters before our kids decided to play. We have a lot of talent on this team, and we gotta go back to work. Our kids need to learn to start faster.”
The second half started with a Rampart fumble, which turned into a field goal. The Rampart defense got a stop on its next chance and pulled within 31-13 after Yoo scored his first touchdown of the season from two yards out. The Rams got in the red zone after a diving catch from Pavlica inside the 5.
The teams exchanged 40-yard field goals in the final two minutes to cap the scoring, giving the Rams a 9-6 edge after halftime.
“Our defense really stood up in the second half, giving up two field goals,” Ward said. “They didn’t sub anybody out. We made some adjustments, and our defense came out on fire. We can’t wait until the second half. We gotta do that early.”
There’s one other thing the Rams have to be able to do, starting with next week’s trip to Chatfield.
“We’ve go to be able to run the ball,” Ward said.