Rams Upbeat After Defeat
Chris Swartz, Langley Rams
The Langley Rams hosted the Westshore Rebels in the opening game of the Canadian Junior Football League season on Saturday and despite falling 19-16 to the Island squad there is a lot of optimism surrounding Head Coach Matt Blokker’s young team.
Over 500 Junior Football fans got their moneys worth from of a game that had it all, intensity, excitement, drama, entertainment and a passion that extended from the field to the stands. It has been a long time since Rams fans have been so engaged in a football game, and it only added to the already great atmosphere created by the Rams organization at McLeod Athletic Park Stadium.
The early part of the game was dominated by defensive play as both teams’ offensive units looked to find their early season timing and shake off some rust.
The first points of the game came following a Rams turnover, Max Joseph had a nice 25 yard catch and run but the Langley native was stripped of the ball near mid field and the Rebels recovered the loose ball, they followed up by pushing the ball to the Rams 21 but could get no further and Kyle Clarke’s 28-yard field goal gave the Rebels a 3-0 lead with 4:41 remaining in the opening frame.
Rams quarterback Duncan Little took over at the Rams 35 and put together a 10-play drive that took them to the Rebels 21, the drive stalled there and Mattias Bueno was good from 28 yards out with 17 seconds on the clock to make the score 3-3 after one quarter of play.
The Rams defense stepped up on the Rebels first series of the second quarter, sacks by Skye King and Dalton Dietrich forced Clarke to punt from his own 45, his effort to keep the ball away from the ever-dangerous Max Joseph resulted in a 20-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Rams 45.
Little and the Rams offense went to work once again and this time marched the ball all the way to the Rebels three-yard line, after two attempts to find the endzone the Rams settled for a 13-yard field goal and had a 6-3 lead with 6:04 remaining in the half.
Rebels quarterback Mason Brown gave the Rams defensive unit fits most of the game with his ability to avoid pressure and make big plays at key times, he avoided several sacks on the Rebels next possession and using a mix of runs and passes moved the ball deep into Rams territory, his 10-yard touchdown strike to Khaliel James gave the Rebels a 10-6 lead with 2:27 left in the second quarter.
Little went right back to work and drove the ball to the Rebels 13 but could get no closer, Bueno’s 20-yard field goal pulled the Rams to within a point at 10-9 with 1:32 on the clock.
A short series by the Rebels put the ball in Little’s hands once more, this time deep in his own end with under a minute on the clock. Starting at his own 26 the native of Didsbury Alberta hit Victor Belanger with a 24-yard toss and then found veteran running back Joseph Carter with a screen pass that went 56 yards for a touchdown and brought the Rams faithful to their feet, the two-point convert attempt failed and the Rams went into the break leading 15-10.
Rams fans got a taste of Matias Bueno’s leg strength early in the third quarter when the Winnipeg native unleashed a booming 55-yard punt into the endzone for a single to make the score 16-10.
The remainder of the third quarter was, for the most part, played between the 50-yard lines as neither team could work their way into scoring position.
A missed Rebels 42-yard field goal attempt followed by an untimely Rams penalty put Little over center with his feet in the endzone and the ball on the one-yard line, the Rams gave up a safety touchback from there to make the score 16-12 with 10 minutes left in the game, as a result of the safety the Rams had to kick the ball back to the Rebels, who found themselves near mid field after a good return.
Brown once again averted several sacks and managed to move the ball into the Rams end of the field, he then hit Nathan Falito with a 30-yard touchdown strike to make the score 19-16 with 6:31 to go in the game.
With time getting short Little led his offense into Rebels territory once again and the Rams found themselves with a decision to make on third down and a yard to go at the 30 yard line, attempt a 37 yard field goal to tie the game or keep the drive alive by converting the short yardage situation, they opted to go for the for the first down but Little’s pass attempt fell incomplete and the Rams turned the ball, and the game, over on downs.
There were some rusty spots in Duncan Little’s game but still enough shine showing for Rams coaches and fans to be excited about the rest of the season.
Little completed 21 of 43 pass attempts for 320 yards and a touchdown, he spread the ball around to 10 different receivers on the day and hit Max Joseph a team leading five times, Joseph Carter had three catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
The Rams were committed to throwing the ball and didn’t run much, when they did there wasn’t a lot of room, Carter carried the ball five times for eight yards and Vincent Mohammed 3 times for 29 yards.
Mason Brown completed 13 of his 24 attempts for 213 yards and a touchdown, he was also the Rebels leading rusher with 95 yards on nine carries, in total the Rebels rushed for 181 yards.
Isaiah Okoli led the way defensively for the Rams with 12 tackles, Kyle Clarot had 9 tackles and a pass knockdown while JP Kalambay had the lone interception of the game.
The Rams defense was in the Rebels backfield most of the game but only managed to catch the elusive Brown four times for sacks, two of them by Partap Sandhu and the others by Skye King and Dalton Dietrich.
The Rams head for Chilliwack on Saturday for a 7PM game versus the surprising Valley Huskers, who defeated the defending champion VI Raiders 33-31 on Sunday.
The Rams are in Nanaimo the following week and return home on Saturday August 25 for a 7PM game versus the Okanagan Sun.