Battling the wind and a steady mist, the Richland Rams controlled every aspect of their Friday night contest against the Greater Johnstown Trojans en route to a 58-6 victory at Herlinger Field.
Richland sent a message right from the opening kickoff with an 89-yard touchdown return from senior Caleb Burke. Burke corralled the ball on one hop at his own 11, found a seam in the coverage, and broke away to sprint untouched into the end zone for the score. Autumn Facci drilled the extra point and the Rams were off and running just 16 seconds into the game.
“Kellan (Stahl) asked me what formation to use on the first play and I told him I think Caleb is going to run it back and he ran it back for us,” said Richland coach Brandon Bailey.
It was a lead the Rams did not relinquish the rest of the evening as they dominated every facet of the game on their way to victory. In addition to Burke’s early heroics, the Rams scored eight more times with the offense, defense and special teams all getting on the board.
Taking all the momentum from the early score, the Rams hounded the visiting Trojans all evening long and never gave them a sliver of hope to mount any sort of comeback. Through the first quarter of play, the Trojans were held to minus-21 yards of offense while the Rams were clicking on all cylinders. Touchdowns from Allen Mangus and Burke had the Rams in control 21-0 after the opening 12 minutes, and they did not stop there.
“We have some veteran players and we had our way on defense tonight,” said Bailey.
“Offensively, we were able to spread the ball around, get a lot of guys touches and get a lot of guys involved.”
Just seconds into the second quarter, the Trojans were lining up to punt, but Connor Rager broke through the line to get a hand on the kick. Teammate Jacob Sabol recovered the ball in the end zone for the Rams’ second special teams touchdown in as many quarters.
“Our special teams coach Ron Hobbs prepares our kids, and everyone executed tonight,” said Bailey.
On the very next possession, a second down snap sailed over the head of Trojans quarterback Sammy Barber and rolled 30 yards into the end zone, where Nate Kniss fell on the ball to get the Rams’ defense on the board and push the hosts in front 35-0.
Facing a five-touchdown hole on the road is a tough ask to come back from, but the Trojans still showed some fight and answered back. On a fourth-and-23 from the Rams’ 30, Barber went for the home run ball and Tyjon Jones climbed the latter and brought it down for the score.
“At the end of the second quarter, my team came up ready to fight,” said Trojans coach Bruce Jordan. “They were down but they never quit, they just kept playing.”
It turned out to be a short-lived celebration for the Trojans as the Rams restored their five score lead just two plays later. A 29-yard connection between Kellan Stahl and Burke followed by a pass interference penalty helped set up Burke’s third score of the game, this one from 16 yards out.
Anytime Burke touched the ball Friday night, it felt like he was about to break a big play. For the game, Burke totaled 177 all-purpose yards to go along with his three touchdowns to lead the Rams offense.
The score set the halftime lead at 42-6 in favor of the home side and put a running clock into effect for when the teams returned from halftime.
In the second half, it was more of the same from the Rams, a high-octane offense combined with a stifling defense. Trevor Tustin put his name in the box score with a blazing 70-yard touchdown run which was followed by another defensive score, this time a safety off a high punt snap. Richland wrapped up its scoring barrage late in third quarter when Tyler Reed carried in from 5 yards out to set the final.