Rams hold off Raiders
By Chuck Mingori
The Mount Rainier football team held off the Thomas Jefferson Raiders, 20-7, Saturday night in North Puget Sound League action, but it was not the kind of overall performance the Rams had in mind.
“Right now it is really hard for me to find a lot that we did well,” said Rams coach Tremain Mack. “The biggest thing is we found a way to win the game, and we didn’t give up. That’s something that I will take from the game.”
The Rams controlled possession for much of the first half and ran twice as many plays, but had little to show for it. A Blaine Patten interception gave Mount Rainier the ball at its own 36. The Rams were stopped on their drive at the Jefferson 16 as the Raiders defense forced three straight incompletions.
However, the Rams appeared to be in business again following a pick by Ricky Bell early in the second quarter. Mixing the pass with the run the Rams moved into scoring position again only to see that drive stall. Quickly the ball was back in Mount Rainier possession when Jerry Joseph fell on a fumbled punt return at the Raiders’ 18-yard line.
A stout defensive effort stopped the Rams again on fourth down. Mount Rainier finally did score with 51 seconds left in the first half, however, when receiver Zeek Pestana-Cruz hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jayden Tamburelli.
Both teams stacked up big yardage in penalties, but the Rams saw some big huge gains nullified by the flag. It was a physical battle on the Federal Way Memorial Field, and injuries seemed to pile up on both sides during the hard-hitting game. Following another fumble recovery by Mount Rainier, the Rams were poised to attack in the second half.
Behind a strong running game and pinpoint passing, the Rams moved downfield . A run of 13 yards by Joseph and another 11 by Jeremiah Johnson gave the Rams two quick first downs. Tamburelli found Cruz open for 14 yards and a first down at the TJ 22. Facing fourth down and 10 at the 11, Tamburelli scrambled for a first down near the goal line. Two plays later, Johnson was in the end zone to extend the lead to 14-0 following a successful PAT midway through the third.
Two Ram takeaways failed to produce any scores in the third quarter before Jefferson would get on the scoreboard at the 9:22 mark of the fourth quarter. Charles Wight bulldozed into the end zone to complete a scoring drive that covered 66 yards, all on the ground.
The momentum appeared to be on Jefferson’s side as the Raiders moved the ball into Ram territory. This time Mount Rainier’s defense stiffened, stopping Wight short on fourth down at the Ram 44. Although a 57-yard pass play from Tamburelli to Cruz was brought back by penalty to the 21-yard line, Pierre Cole broke free up the middle on the next play for a 21-yard scoring romp and a 20-7 advantage with 3:16 left in the game.
The Rams were led in passing by Tamburelli, who passed for 186 yards on 13 of 27 attempts and one touchdown.Cruz hauled in five catches for 118 yards, while Willard grabbed four catches for 57 yards. The Rams’ rushing attack piled up 106 net yards. Joseph gained 59 yards on the ground to lead the way, while Johnson gained 33 and Cole added 24.
Thomas Jefferson gained 187 yards on the ground. Wight led the way with 84 yards followed by Kaimani Robator Faimalo (35 yards), DJ Clayton (28 yards) and Damarion Davis (24).
Jefferson (1-2, 1-5) plays at Kent_Meridian (0-1, 0-5) next Saturday at 6.
Mount Rainier resumes NPSL action this Friday at Highline Stadium against Decatur (2-1, 4-2). Kick-off is set for 8 p.m.