Friday was a rainy night with a slight chill in the air, but that wouldn’t dampen the Paoli Rams’ spirit as they defeated the Eastern Greene Thunderbirds 48 to 12. Both teams fought hard the entire game, but it was the Rams’ 590 offensive yards and 5 different scoring players that proved to much for the Thunderbirds.
The Rams have been an exciting team to watch all season. They are a quick with a lot of weapons and Coach Dittmer utilized them all on Friday. Fletcher Cole, Trey Rominger and Coen Brace each had one rushing touchdown. It was Freshman Coen’s first TD of the season, who got some good playing time in the closing minutes of the game. Brandon Cook and Braxton Elliot each picked up 2 rushing touchdowns, as they both continue to find success on the exterior runs.
Trey Rominger had another big day on the ground, rushing 19 times for 276 yards and 1 touchdown. He averaged 14.5 yards a carry and had an exciting 65-yard touchdown run on the very first play of the second half. Rominger has been a force all season, literally carrying opposing players on his back and setting up big plays for his teammates.
Paoli’s Coy Busick (#74) stepped it up a notch, leading the Rams in tackles with 8 and 2 tackles for a loss. Coy’s contributions were a welcoming addition to the usual Rams defensive core with Rominger, Benales, and Apple. Coach Dittmer has been proud of his teams’ defensive performance, “The defense has done a great job the last few games. A lot of it is our kids becoming more confident in our scheme.”
The Rams opened the game throwing the ball and attempted a few more deep attempts then usual. I asked Paoli’s Coach Dittmer about the increase in the passing game, “We are working on our passing game more and more. It’s something we know we will need at some point. Have to get better of designing throws that will be best for us and continue to build as we go through the rest of the season.”
Even though the Rams were testing the passing game, it was difficult for QB Braxton Elliot to find time in the pocket. Eastern Greene excelled at getting pressure, beating the Rams OL several times to get sacks on Elliot. The Thunderbirds QB pressure was a bright spot for the team, but that defensive pressure did not translate to rushing D.
The scoring divide was vast, but there were points where it felt like the Thunderbirds could get back into the game. The Birds controlled a lot of the momentum in the second quarter, getting multiple defensive stops, one being at their own 4-yard line with ten seconds left in the half. Paoli was sputtering and leaving a taste of hope for Eastern Greene. Going into half, the Rams would need to wake up.
Paoli took a knee just off the field, uncovered, outside in the cold drizzle. The cheerleaders danced in the rain, and the fans sat blanketed and covered by umbrellas, cozied up in the stands. Its not the type of setting you’d think a team would find motivation and drive, but they did.
The Rams responded with the opening Rominger touchdown, and they controlled the momentum from that point on.
Eastern Greene has the size and skill players to be impressive in coming season. In this loss, the Birds found success in the air, but were probably hoping for more on the ground. Eastern’s JR running back James Lewis had a respectable game with 22 rushes for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. Lewis had a couple good runs, but was held in check when it counted.
Thunderbird QB Jonas Hawk was not scared to throw the ball and had a decent showing, throwing 8/16 for 111 yards and 1 touchdown. The Rams do have gaps in their passing defense, so it was a good Thunderbird strategy to go to the air. Hawk threw some long-distance bombs that were hauled in, but it was his misses in the short game that cost the Birds on some key plays. The ball was slick and was a cause for the errant passes.
If the Rams face a true passing team, they will need to ramp up their long ball coverage. They should be fine the rest of the regular season, but come sectional they could be paired with Mater Dei, who has one the best passers in Southern Indiana.
The Rams move back home next Friday to play Crawford County, followed by Mitchell after that. The Rams are in an easier part of the schedule and should use this time to practice on areas they struggle, like the passing game, passing defense, and controlling the penalties. They need to continue putting the pedal down and preparing for the offseason, when the real challenges in a difficult sectional, begin.
For the Thunderbirds, it doesn’t get any easier. They move on to face a very, very good Owen Valley team. I’m not even sure why these 2 teams are playing this season, as OV is a 3A powerhouse this season, going up against a rebuilding 1A Eastern Greene team. If Eastern scores next week, then I’d chalk that up as win. Good luck to both teams in that contest.