BY CLINT FOSTER
There were few bright spots in the Mineral Wells High School Rams’ season opener. On a muggy evening under the Friday night lights, the Rams were run over, around and through by the ninth-ranked Graham Steers in a 51-7 rout at Rams Stadium.
The offense struggled to find any rhythm and the defense was largely overmatched. But there was, in fact, a diamond in the rough of the Rams drubbing at the hands of the Steers. Despite surrendering 51 points – 44 of which were scored in the first half – the Mineral Wells defense forced three turnovers.
Head coach Chuck Lawrence seemed dismissive of his team’s turnovers, citing Graham’s 543 yards of total offense and 51 points as evidence that the Rams need major improvement.
“We got three good turnovers and we got a score, all that’s fine and dandy, but we’ve got to figure out a way to shut them down and not give up 51 points,” he said. “We ran almost 90 defensive snaps tonight and we didn’t get very many three-and-outs. We’ve got to get three-and-outs to get the ball back to our offense. We gave up too many yards.”
The Rams’ first turnover came near the end of the first quarter. With the score 30-0, junior outside linebacker Steven Unerfusser snagged an interception and took the ball inside the Graham 5-yard line. The play was a much-needed boost for a Rams team desperately grasping for any shred of momentum. Unfortunately for Mineral Wells, the offense could not capitalize and punch the ball into the end zone.
The Rams got a second interception in the second half thanks to the sure hands of Ty Tarver, and McCain Mason also recovered a fumble. However, the respective ensuing offensive drives did not result in any points.
But the Rams saved the best turnover for last. With time running out in the fourth quarter, senior defensive end Elijuan Combs recovered a fumble from Graham backup quarterback Weston Womack and returned the ball for a 64-yard touchdown. Combs soaked in the rare moment for a defensive lineman, with his finger stretched high to the night sky as he sprinted down the field.
“[Defensive linemen] don’t get to score much,” Lawrence said of Combs’ late touchdown. “He played pretty good in the second half. We’ve got to start making more plays in the first half. But yeah, I’m sure that’s a thrill for him.”
As for the rest of his defense, Lawrence said his plans for improvement start immediately in the film room.
“We’ll look at the film just like every week and make the corrections and hopefully get better,” he said. “I’ve found out in 37 years of coaching you’re never as good as you thought you were and you’re never as bad as you thought you were when you look at the film. There were some good moments, but there were some poor moments.”
The Mineral Wells Rams (0-1) will get their first chance to redeem their season opening loss when they travel to Wichita Falls for a non-district contest with the Hirschi High School Huskies (1-0) next Friday at 7 p.m.
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