ROSS TWP. — Friday night at Robinson Field in Ross Township was a warning: Cold weather is on the horizon, and football season is in full swing.
It was Homecoming for the Rams, and head coach Kenyon Commins and his team were looking for their first conference win as members of the Southwest Buckeye League, taking on the Franklin Wildcats. Ross joined the conference this school year after 10-plus years in the Southwest Ohio Conference.
From the first snap, things weren’t looking good for the Rams. Franklin quarterback Brock Childers connected on a deep pass with wide receiver Joshua Carter for a score. The Wildcats slapped Ross in the face, taking a 7-0 lead in the early seconds of the game.
However, the Rams would respond. A steady diet of talented running back Riley Caldwell would help march Commins’ offense down the field. After four consecutive runs for Caldwell, quarterback Emory Severance would keep an option run and take it to the one-yard line. Caldwell would cash in soon after, the first of four touchdowns on the day for Ross’ bell cow back.
“It was the offensive line, for sure,” Caldwell told BCHSSR following the Rams win over Franklin. “Those boys were moving people. We were running the same plays. Whatever works, works.
“I just made some moves on the third level and made stuff happen. Once I see that hole, I’m gone. That’s it.”
Apparently, all the Rams’ defense needed was the long touchdown to wake them up. Franklin marched into Rams territory, but linebacker Derrick Rack would burst through the offensive line stuffing the Wildcats’ running back for a loss. They would go for it on 4th, but linebacker Austin Farris would join the fun, stopping the Wildcats short and giving the Rams the ball.
After getting the ball back with good field position, Caldwell would pound the rock yet again. After another lengthy drive, he would cash in for his second score, giving the Rams a 14-7 lead.
Rack would make another big stop on third down on the ensuing drive. Franklin would punt, giving the Rams the ball back with a chance to take a two-possession lead.
“He’s done great for us,” Commins said on linebacker Derrick Rack. “He’s an emotional kid, and when he gets going, he’s really tough to block. He’s made stops for us all year… Tonight, they were huge.”
Severance and Caldwell would alternate carries and team up in the option game. Faced with a 3rd & medium in the red zone, Franklin would commit an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. A play later, Caldwell would cash in on 4th down for his third score of the half. Ross had a stranglehold on the game with a 21-7 lead.
After a fake punt stalled Franklin’s next drive, Ross would take over with excellent field position. However, incompletions on 2nd and 4th down would give the ball back to Franklin as the first half clock continued to wind down. The Rams committed a facemask penalty, aiding the Wildcats’ cause, and Childers connected with receiver Isaac Elam for a long gain through the air.
Franklin had a chance to bring the score within a possession. However, in Rams territory, Childers would take a shot for the end zone, and Ross defensive back Brandt Kugler would intercept it easily, giving the ball back to the Rams, who would salt away their 21-7 first-half lead.
After the break, Caldwell would pick up right where he left off. On the first play from Scrimmage, he would take it 75 yards for a score. The point after try would miss, giving the Rams a 27-7 lead.
“It was just a mauling up front; I think that’s what it came down to,” Commins said. “They had good size. It just came down to leverage. They were bigger, but we were a lot stronger. They struggled a little bit with the scheme here and there.”
Following Caldwell’s burst, the remaining 29-plus minutes yielded fewer explosive plays for both teams. Complacency may have set in for the Rams on both sides of the ball. Unsportsmanlike conduct and defensive pass interference penalties plagued the Rams.
“Even with all the losses this year, that’s probably the maddest I’ve been,” Commins admitted. “We have a chance to end the game, and we keep hanging around. We had the ball on first and goal from the five, and we didn’t end up scoring. We get back to the 27-yard line because of penalties.
“Those pieces are frustrating. We have to fix that mental piece.”
“I know what we can do,” Caldwell explained. “Those are mistakes, and we are going to fix them. It happens, and I know our team is good enough to come back from them. We just need to learn how to finish.”
However, Franklin would make many mistakes of their own. False starts, encroachments, and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties prevented the Wildcats from creating momentum on either side of the ball.
Ross quarterback Emory Severance would add two touchdowns, including one during the game’s last two minutes. Franklin would never get closer than trailing by 14 points in the second half, giving the Rams a 41-27 win, snapping a four-game losing streak for Ross.
“It feels good,” Commins told Butler County High School Sports Report. “This year has been a struggle. Getting a win period is good for us. It feels good to get the first one in the SWBL out of the way.”
Ross improved to 2-6 overall and 1-1 in the SWBL. Commins and the Rams will travel to Monroe next Friday for another conference showdown. Franklin will look for their third win on the season and second in the conference next week at Edgewood.