Sometimes a game plan is overturned by common sense. Perhaps that’s the best explanation for what happened on Friday night in Ramsay High’s 27-19 victory over Leeds in a Class 5A quarterfinal game at Legion Field.
In the first half, the Ramsay plan was to take advantage of some opportunities they saw in the Leeds secondary. The second half? That’s when common sense showed up.
“We said, you know what, we got a really good running back and we’re going to put him to work,” said Ramsay head coach Ronnie Jackson.
Ashton Ashford, a physical 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior is the Ramsay running back. In the first half, he had two carries for six yards. His second half numbers were 23 carries for 147 yards with two touchdown runs and another that was negated by a penalty. In the final 24 minutes, he followed a Ramsay offensive line that dominated after being mostly whipped by Leeds defensive linemen Kavion Henderson, Chris Burge and the rest of the Green Wave defense in the first half.
Take away the first Ramsay play from scrimmage – a quick pass on the outside that receiver Jalen Jones turned into a 56-yard touchdown – and nothing went right for the Rams offense. Ramsay had just 10 offensive snaps the remainder of the first half. The net gain in those 10 snaps was two yards and two of the plays resulted in lost fumbles by quarterback Tremell Washington.
Leeds (11-1) had touchdown drives of 31 and 4 yards with quarterback Jarod Latta and running back Jeremiah Hunter scoring on short runs. Leeds missed one of the extra points and had a field goal attempt blocked, but Jackson Arthur’s field goal in the final seconds of the half gave the Green Wave a 16-7 lead at halftime.
The message at halftime in the Ramsay locker room was simple.
“Coach [Jackson] just told us to calm down and we’re built for this,” Jones said. “He always talks about adversity. Adversity hit us right there [in the first half]. He just said we’re going to see what we’re made of. We just came out and showed them.”
Actually, the first points of the half came on a 31-yard field goal by Arthur. It was the ensuing drive that changed the whole complexion of the game. Ramsay went quick tempo for the first time in the game and swiftly moved down the field. The Rams needed to go 70 yards to score but managed just 69 before turning the ball over. But the momentum was still switched.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot the first half – false starts, bad snaps,” Jackson said. “Once we started to alleviate those things everything became normal. We run fast, we play fast, that’s our M.O.”
It still took a huge play by the special teams to truly get it going. Jones gathered in a long Arthur punt, racing back and catching it over his shoulder at the Rams 15-yard line. He turned up field and made several defenders miss on the way to a 73-yard return. It took Ashford three plays to cover the 17 yards with the touchdown coming on a 4-yard run. Ramsay trailed 17-14 with 10:32 left.
On the next series, it was the defense’s turn to make a big play. Leeds looked to have a big play on perfectly executed middle screen from Latta to Miles Jones. Ramsay linebacker QB Reese, who was sensational all night, hustled downfield to force and recover a fumble. Reese lost the ball on the return but defensive lineman Demarcus Wynn scooped up the loose ball and carried the ball down to the 18-yard line.
“I’m running trying to find somebody to block,” said Wynn, who had three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. “I see the ball come out. My first instinct was just to pick it up and go.”
This time, it took four Ashford runs to cover the 18 yards and, once again, he scored on a 4-yard run to give Ramsay a 20-19 lead with 8:02 left in the game. Ashford appeared to score on a 67-yard run on the next Ramsay possession but the score was negated on a block in the back call inside the 10-yard line. The Rams failed to score on that possession.
Ramsay defensive back Jermaine Foy made a huge defensive play when he intercepted a long pass and cruised 52 yards for the score to give Ramsay a 27-19 lead with 2:35 left.
Leeds didn’t go away quietly. Latta drove the team down the field, throwing for 54 yards to give Leeds a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line with about one minute left. Three consecutive incomplete passes was followed by a sack by Ramsay’s Cameron Carson and Caleb Patterson.
“We have been leaning on our defense all year long,” Jackson said. “They keep finding a way to win. Our offense, it’s taking us a while to get started. The defense, they find a way. I’m just excited for our guys.”
Ramsay moves on to play host to Pleasant Grove in the quarterfinals. Ramsay beat Pleasant Grove, 21-14, earlier this season. The teams also met in the 2020 semifinals with Pleasant Grove winning, 35-14.
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