JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – It was a slow start for the Richland Rams on Friday night at Sargent’s Stadium, but after the initial rust wore off, the visiting team posted a 31-point second quarter en route to a 38-0 win over the Rams. McCort-Carroll Catholic Crushers to remain undefeated.
The Rams and Crushers were coming off emotional wins the previous week, perhaps contributing to a slow start as both teams struggled to get on track in the first quarter.
Three punts and a turnover on downs was all the Rams and Crushers had to show in terms of offense in the first quarter, but there were signs of progress late in the quarter with the Rams going deep into Crushers territory and knocking on the end zone gate.
“After two emotional games with Forest Hills and Central, we were a bit uncomfortable offensively,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. “Luckily the defense got us back.”
On just the second play of the second quarter, the Rams broke the deadlock with a one-yard run from Sam Penna to put the hosts ahead 7-0.
From that point on, it was all Rams who rocketed for 31 points in the second frame to grab the contest firmly before halftime.
A fumble by Crushers quarterback Johnny Golden was picked up by Luke Feichtel on the Crushers side of the field and two plays later Evan McCracken hit a seam and found pay dirt from 34 yards to double the Rams to lead 14-0 less than five minutes into the second.
It turned out to be the first of three touchdown scores for McCracken on the night, all of which came on four offensive plays in the second quarter.
The very next time McCracken touched the ball, 55 yards went untouched for his second scoreline as the Rams offense started banging on all cylinders after the slow start.
Desperate to take the Rams’ momentum away, the Crushers attempted a faux punk deep in their own turf, but it was easily snuffed out by the Rams, and it was McCracken who completed his two-game touchdown hat trick later with a score of 18 yards. to make it 28-0 in favor of the visiting team.
McCracken praised his offensive line for their efforts to make his big night possible,
“At first I wasn’t reading well, but I was patient and they were blocking well,” McCracken said. “They were opening big holes for me, that’s what they do best.”
On the night, McCracken totaled 172 rushing yards, all of which came in the first half, to go along with his three touchdown performance as the junior running back continued to be a catalyst for the Rams offense at the start of the season.
As the Rams offense found its rhythm, the Rams defense didn’t miss a beat from last week when it shut out the high-scoring central offense in the second half and carried that form over to meet Friday with the Crushers.
“We just kept putting the pressure on and he couldn’t get the ball out,” Bailey said.
Regardless of what the Crushers tried to throw at them, the Rams had an answer in the shutout victory.
“We wanted to go the distance with them and we thought we could,” McCort-Carroll coach Tom Smith said.
“What happened were turnovers and penalties, and playing against a team like that is extremely difficult to recover from.”
In the first half alone, the Rams defense forced four punts from Crusher, stopped a fake punt and forced two turnovers that led to 10 points.
Late in the second quarter, the Crushers threatened for the first and only time of the night, running down to the Rams’ two-yard line before Jordan Nichols decided he’d seen enough and forced a turnaround with a backpack from Golden.
It was one of four sacks Nichols had on Golden, as the senior linebacker was nearly unblockable throughout the game.
“My defensive linemen were taking double teams for me and creating space,” Nichols said. “I did what I do best, use my speed off the edge and get to the quarterback and cause a ruckus in the backfield.”
That fumble gave the Rams just enough time to get into a two-minute offense and run down the field to set up a 32-yard field goal from Noah Ritko as time expired to give the Rams a comfortable 31-0 cushion. at the break.
The second half told a mush of the same story as the first with the Rams controlling play and seeing off the rest of the game to keep their undefeated start to the season intact.
Joe Penna recorded the only points of the second half, picking up a blocked punt and running it into the end zone to start a clock ticking and put the final score at 38-0 in favor of the Rams.