Rams conquer the elements, East Lake in 21-12 rain-shortened victory
The rain, rain didn’t go away on Saturday as host Riverview High and visiting East Lake splished and splashed their way across the Ram Bowl field in the Preseason Kickoff Classic for both teams.
The wet stuff, with a flash of fourth-quarter lightning as a chaser, promoted officials to halt the action with seven minutes, 44 seconds left and the Rams up 21-12 before an understandably sparse gathering.
Cardinal Mooney transfer running back Trey Hall scored once, as did wide receiver Omari Hayes on a 72-yard reception from quarterback Sean White, and running back Michael Hayes tallied on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, the final scoring of the game.
“I knew that with the field conditions and the weather, I assumed both teams would be a little sloppy at times,” Riverview head coach Josh Smithers said. “The only thing I was real disappointed in is I felt like we’ve had some really good practices, and just not lining up right, we had some offsides, some holds, things we hadn’t been doing. I thought we were a little bit ahead in that department. But we’ll go back and address those things.”
Smithers was happy with how his team battled back after falling behind 12-7. Riverview opened the scoring on its first drive, moving 59 yards in six plays. On fourth-and-2 from the Eagle 22, Hall took the handoff from White and scooted into the end zone. Dorian Hall’s PAT put the Rams up 7-0. Hall finished his Ram debut with 117 yards on 28 carries.
East Lake then took the ensuing kickoff and engineered its only scoring drive of the game. Set up by a 17-yard run by quarterback Matt Trotto on second-and-8 from the Ram 27, the Eagles got on the board on Trotto’s 6-yard scoring toss to tight end Hunter Swetokos. But the PAT from Mike Tsombanidis was blocked and Riverview led 7-6.
Just not for long. The Rams were stopped on their next possession, forcing Dorian Hall onto the field to punt from his own end zone. The snap from center was true, but Riverview’s protection wasn’t.
Hall’s punt was blocked and the ball was recovered in the end zone by the Eagles for the score. This time Tsombanidis’ PAT was wide, putting East Lake’s lead at 12-7.
Smithers said his regular long snapper was a little banged up and used a new one on Saturday. “The snap was actually good,” he said. “Our protection was actually really bad.”
But after East Lake took the lead, the Rams came right back to reclaim it. The final play in their five-play drive was a huge one. On second-and-12 from his own 28, Hayes caught a slip screen from White and didn’t stop running until reaching the Eagle end zone for the 72-yard score. Hall’s PAT put the Rams in front for good 14-12.
Besides the blocked punt, the Rams had a touchdown run in the third quarter from Bo Bloom nullified by a holding penalty. And twice Riverview went for it on fourth down without converting.
“We held (on the score),” Smithers said, “but I felt he didn’t need to hold for that play to continue to happen.”
With the departure of Ali Boyce, the Rams will rely on the Hall-Hayes tandem in the backfield. The junior Hayes added 59 yards on 15 attempts.
As for Hall, Smithers said the junior is coming along.
“That’s something that I’ve seen a huge improvement from this spring,” he said. “He wasn’t really trusting his blocking. I didn’t know if he just wanted to impress us or what it was, but it seemed like he was always wanting to hit the big play. He’s really bought in to getting those tough yards. When you see him without pads on, he’s a strong guy. He’s also got a chance to make you miss a little bit.”
And though he attempted just 10 passes, completing four for 98 yards and the one score, White looks more comfortable this year running the Rams’ offense.
“He’s light years ahead of where he was last year at this time,” Smithers said. “He’s playing with a lot more confidence.”
The Rams open their season Friday at home against Naples High.