The football was loose on the turf. The team that recovered it wouldn’t be guaranteed victory, but it would have the momentum in a game in which momentum was fumbled often for most of three quarters.
Chaminade Julienne had driven to the Trotwood-Madison 1-yard line late in the third quarter when a snap was botched on first down. The Eagles would still have a chance to cut
Trotwood’s lead to a field goal if it recovered. The Rams, the No. 1 Division III team in Ohio, would keep its 10-point lead and hope for a momentum change it could keep.
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When senior defensive tackle Joshua Jordan bounced up and ran with the ball held high in celebration toward his sideline, the Rams were in control again.
“I felt a change on the sideline,” Jordan said. “It kept everybody going stronger and harder.”
The Rams suddenly had it all – the ball, control, momentum and focus – and drove 97 yards for a touchdown that carried them to a 44-14 victory and their eighth straight trip to the state semifinals.
Trotwood (13-0) will find out Saturday where it will play next Friday and who it will play. Last year the Rams lost in the state final for the fourth time in seven years. They won it all in 2011 under Maurice Douglass.
“Our kids set their goals up, and this is something that we looked at from last year,” Rams coach Jeff Graham said. “We wanted to get back to the state, so this is our chance.”
After the fumble, Rams quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers and running back Ra’veion Hargrove led a seven-play drive in a little over two minutes. Hargrove popped through some congestion up the middle for a 26-yard touchdown run and a 30-14 lead with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
“It picked the intensity up to an all-time high,” Stephens-Peppers said of the fumble recovery. “We knew we had to come down here and score and put this game away.”
The Rams added two more scores – a 24-yard run by Dae’Vontay Latimer and a 22-yard pass from Stephens-Peppers to Dallas Daniels – to keep the momentum and win by a score they are more accustomed to.
“You’ve got to make them face adversity, and we did that,” CJ coach Marcus Colvin said. “Unfortunately, we kind of buckled. You can’t fumble at the one.”
Graham was pleased how his team responded to the adversity.
“Sometimes you can’t practice it, and you can’t go through every game and have those situations happen,” Graham said. “The best thing that happened was playing the game and they could actually go through it.”
Stephens-Peppers is grateful the lesson in adversity didn’t become a bitter lesson.
“It teaches us a lot to come out here and struggle a little bit,” he said. “Next week we have a picture of what could happen, so we have to be more prepared and execute when the game starts.”
The Rams outgained the Eagles 561-292 and got another productive night out of Hargrove with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, even if he was a little banged up. Stephens-Peppers was a sharp passer, completing 14 of 21 for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Daniels caught 10 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our running back was not in tip-top shape,” Stephens-Peppers said, “so I had to prove to everybody that I could throw the ball.”
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