CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — The Cleveland Rams overcame numerous obstacles this season. The first is the always high expectations of the fans by making it to the playoffs.
They overcame losing arguably their best player Omarion Hampton to a broken ankle and making it to the state finals.
What they could not overcome were three turnovers in the 3AA championship to Mount Tabor losing the game 24-16.
“Obviously you have to protect the football in championship games,” said Cleveland Rams head coach Scott Riley. “Mount Tabor just earned the win with great coaching and hats off to them they are the 3AA champions and they earned it.”
Mount Tabor jumped on top in the first quarter and looked to add to the lead but the Rams defense held firm. Cleveland stuffed Mount Tabor three times inside the 10-yard line before blocking a 22-yard field goal attempt.
The Rams went on an eight-play, 84-yard drive to start the second quarter and capped it with a touchdown pass from Cameron Goins to Carter Griffith to tie the game at seven.
Mount Tabor retook the lead just before the half and after the break took advantage of a fumble recovered for a touchdown to make it a 14-point game.
Instead of hanging their heads, the Rams responded in the third quarter with another 8 play, 70-yard drive which ended with a touchdown pass from Skyler Locklear to Nick Roccia to make it a seven-point game again. A Mount Tabor Field goal and a Cleveland safety made the score 24-16.
With time winding down in the contest the Rams had one last chance to tie things up. Cleveland drove within striking distance but Locklear’s 4th down touchdown pass attempt was tipped and fell incomplete in the end zone sealing the win for Mount Tabor.
“Our kids never gave up all year we ran into a really good Mount Tabor team and they got the best of us at the end,” coach Riley. “Our kids fought. They fought all year. They fought to have their season. They fought to play all year, fought back from a couple of deficits during the year so they’re fighters and that’s gonna carry them a long way in life a lot more than just football skills.”
“This team is just great we’re brothers,” said Rams junior quarterback Skyler Locklear. “We’re going to fight for each other until the very end just like we did”
The Rams finished the season 10-1. They made it farther in the post-season than any team in school history. The loss definitely stings and they might not be able to see it now but this squad has an awful lot to look back on and be proud of.
“I toll them tonight doesn’t diminish what they did this season and to hold their heads up,” said coach Riley. “I think when they wake up tomorrow they’ll have a lot more to celebrate than be disappointed about.”