The Ashland Beacon
One thing that football coaches and players will admit can swing the outcome of a game can be summed up with one word.
Friday night when Raceland visited Pikeville in the State Semifinals, the Panthers had all the momentum from the opening kickoff. Then just as it appeared the Rams had found a seat for “Mo” on their sideline, a tipped ball landed in the hands of a Pikeville safety in the endzone for an interception.
The Rams trailed 14-0 at that point. Nine plays and 90 yards later, they were down 21-0 and never recovered as the Panthers advanced to the State Championship with a 36-7 win over Raceland.
“You are hoping to cut it in half there, get the ball coming out of the half so, hoping to cut the lead in half and try to get yourself back on time,” Raceland coach Mike Salmons said. “Just couldn’t convert. Again, a couple third downs we had them in and just couldn’t get off the field.”
The lopsided outcome was the largest in the teams three meetings in the semifinals while the Rams were held to season lows on offense and gave up season highs on defense.
“Credit to them,” Salmons said. “They have a great football team; a great program and their staff is first class and everything they do is top notch. You are going to have to beat them, they aren’t going to give you anything. Tonight, they were just better than us.”
Raceland drove to midfield out of the half, but a pair of interceptions thwarted away any hopes of a comeback. Pikeville promptly responded as it had in the first half with a pair of scores and a two-point conversion with 48 seconds to play in the third to start the running clock, something the Rams had not seen since a 50-15 loss to Ashland last season.
“They just really imposed their will in the front seven on both sides of the ball,” Salmons said. “Had a couple chances in the opening drive to get off the field on third down and couldn’t get it done. We gave up an explosive (play)…I always talk about the explosive plays. We kinda settled on our feet there a little bit and then gave up another explosive on the second drive. Had a chance to convert and gave up a turnover in what we call the orange zone and then never could get our feet underneath us and they controlled the line of scrimmage and that’s the story of the game.”
Raceland closes the season at 12-2 which ties the program record for wins in a season set in 2008. The Rams will lose only two seniors, Will Farley and Parker Gallion which eludes to another stellar season on the horizon.
“Playing football since 1928 and all the people who have come before us and these two seniors we lose tonight, they have laid the groundwork to hopefully one day achieve the ultimate prize,” Salmons said. “It takes everybody. Our team really responded from a year ago after a losing season and was able to trip our victories. I felt like our guys really grew up from last year to this year, but we’ve got more growing up to do and that was very evident tonight.”