By CLINT FOSTER
LAKE WORTH – It was a cold, windy Friday night in Lake Worth. Sporadic rain showers blew through the night sky, and with their backs against the wall, the Mineral Wells Rams (0-7) fell short again in district play against the Lake Worth Bullfrogs (5-2, 2-0), 16-6, at Kittrell Stadium.
But don’t blame the defense for the loss.
The Rams defense played nothing short of inspired football and set the tone the entire game, making stop after stop in crucial situations. They held the Bullfrogs to the lowest point total by an opponent this season – 14 points, not including a safety in the fourth quarter – and 272 yards of total offense.
Truthfully, the defense cannot even be faulted for the two touchdowns they gave up: the first of which was on a 20-yard pass in the opening drive that began deep in Ram territory and the second on a 65-yard quarterback draw when the ball carrier broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Head coach Chuck Lawrence had nothing but praise for his team that has continued to practice and play hard when most other teams in their position might have quit.
“These kids are fighting their guts out,” Lawrence said after the game, fighting back tears. “We left it all out on the field. Mineral Wells should be proud of this football team. I don’t care what the record is. They’re fighting and they’re giving it everything they got.”
No position group shined brighter on that dark, rainy night than the Rams’ defensive line. They feasted on a Bullfrog offensive line that looked confused and overmatched. It seemed at least one Ram defender was in the backfield on every play.
Senior defensive tackle Preston Hoskins even snagged an interception on an ill-advised shovel pass in the third quarter, making him the second Ram defensive linemen to grab an interception this season. The entire defensive line never allowed the Lake Worth quarterback to settle in the pocket.
And when the defensive line couldn’t make a play, the linebackers and secondary stepped up. Colby Kissinger made a significant impact in the defensive secondary, defending multiple passes after DeShawn Hicks went down with a minor injury.
“They played their best game of the year, without a doubt,” Lawrence said of his defense. “Obviously that was the game plan. We moved the linemen around a little bit and it seemed to bother them. We just gave up the two early scores. But they fought tooth and nail from there. Our defensive line played outstanding.”
The total defensive performance was personified in a goal line stand in the fourth quarter. The Bullfrogs were up 14-6 and had fourth-and-1 on the Mineral Wells goal line. But the Rams stuffed the Lake Worth offense, as they had done so often that night, and the whole sideline celebrated like they had won the Super Bowl. The defense was carrying the team.
Unfortunately, the Mineral Wells offense simply couldn’t capitalize consistently on the opportunities their defense gave them. Two plays after the goal line stand came a safety and the final points of the game.
Still, the loss wasn’t for a lack of effort in any phase of the game and Lawrence took nothing away from his team.
“They’re practicing hard, they’re playing hard, we’re just coming up short on the scoreboard,” he said. “But I promise you, I don’t know if there’s ever been anybody play any harder.”
Moving forward, the Rams goal remains the same as it always was: reach the playoffs. And they only need two wins to do so. They’ve come heartbreakingly close to that first win in consecutive weeks now, and this is a team that desperately wants to get over the hump. Next week they host the Diamond Hill-Jarvis Eagles (0-7) at 7:30 p.m. in Rams Stadium and that may be as good a time as any to take that next step.