Written by James Gensterblum, Hillsdale Daily News Correspondent
For the past four seasons, the once-mighty North Adams-Jerome Rams have struggled to field a competitive football program, going just 11-25 in that span.
On Friday night, however, the Rams showed signs that a new era was beginning under coach Bryan Cook. NA-J used a punishing ground attack to upend last year’s SCAA Division II champions, the Waldron Spartans, 28-14, and in the process put themselves firmly in this year’s Division II title race.
The Rams are now 2-0 in DII play with two games remaining (versus Tekonsha and Camden-Frontier) and control their own destiny.
“(Being in the title race) means everything to these kids,” said Cook, who is entering his fifth season as head coach. “I’ve had some of them for four years now, and we’ve emphasized every season that if you work hard enough, you’ll get your chance sooner or later. To see that effort pay off is all you can ask for as a coach.”
The Rams did all of their damage on the ground against the Spartans, racking up 269 yards on 57 carries. Leading the way for the Rams was senior tailback Justin Carr, who ran for 171 of those yards and 2 TDs on 30 carries.
“My offensive line was great tonight,” Carr said. “I give them all the credit. I had great holes and running lanes the entire game because of how well they were blocking.”
NA-J raced out to a 14-6 lead in the first half and set the tone immediately in the second, taking the ball 90 yards on their first drive and running 8:31 off of the clock in the process. Carr finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Rams control of the game for good.
“We talked about it at the half and I said that we needed a drive like that as soon as we got the ball back,” Cook said. “We were trying to control the ball in the first half, but mistakes kept us from doing it. Give credit to the kids, they stepped up and executed when they had to.”
David Wick added 97 yards rushing on 22 carries and one touchdown to bolster the Rams’ attack, and Dekota Borton added another rushing touchdown and two interceptions on defense. All told, the Rams’ defense forced four turnovers in the game.
Waldron got solid rushing games from tailbacks John Emens and Casy Mohr, who combined for 152 yards and a touchdown, but struggled to string sustained drives together because of turnovers.
Dylan Emens had a rushing touchdown as well on a one-yard quarterback keeper and added an interception on defense, but was just 2-5 passing with two interceptions on the game.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Waldron coach Jimmy Biggs. “We did a decent job of putting ourselves in position to make plays, but we had too many mistakes to take advantage. North Adams is a very good team this season, and we didn’t execute well enough to hang with them, plain and simple. Mistakes have killed us all season and we have to be more consistent against Colon next week.”
Waldron (1-2, 1-1 SCAA) travels to Colon next week in an attempt to turn their season around, while the Rams (2-1) host the Pittsford Wildcats.