The long nightmare is finally over for a proud Rancho football program.
Senior running back Robert Howard rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries Friday as the Rams snapped their 30-game losing streak with a resounding 34-14 win over visiting Valley. It was the 10th straight loss for the Vikings.
For Howard and the other Rancho seniors, this was the first varsity win of their career. The last time the Rams won a varsity football game was a 37-27 win over Desert Pines on Oct. 4, 2011.
“It’s very overwhelming that we finally won,” Howard said as tears of joy streaked down his cheeks. “It’s been so long, and we’ve gone four years without a win. It finally happened, and it’s just the best feeling I’ve felt in a while. It’s great to be able to share this with my teammates and coaches. I’d like to thank coach (Tom) Pletsch for building this program back from the ground up.”
Pletsch is in his first year as football coach at Rancho, and he started rebuilding the Rams in December when he hired assistant coaches Stan Davis, formerly of Canyon Springs, and Alex Kazel, formerly of Boulder City.
“This is absolutely incredible,” Pletsch said. “This all started last December when I hired two quality coaches, and I put a bunch of Rancho Rams guys as my assistants. We have worked since December and this is the pinnacle of what we’ve been doing.”
While Rancho (1-1) finally snapped its losing streak, early on it appeared the Vikings (0-1) would be the ones to snap their losing streak.
On the opening kickoff, Jaesion Flores returned the ball 61 yards to the Rancho 38-yard line. The Vikings quickly marched inside the 10. On the drive, the Vikings caught a big break when they appeared to fumble the ball, which was recovered by the Rams. However, an inadvertent whistle from the referees forced a replay of the down.
Luckily for the Rams, the Vikings hurt themselves with a holding penalty that pushed them back 10 yards, and on third-and-goal, quarterback Iyen Medlock’s pass was intercepted at the 5-yard line to thwart the scoring opportunity.
“It definitely hyped us up for the rest of the game,” Howard said. “Everyone knew not to give up any more yards. They got a couple of good runs on us, but it was just very important that we did our jobs.”
Rancho responded with a 14-play, 95-yard drive capped off with a 5-yard scoring strike from Dion Southern to Donald Bush to take a 7-0 lead.
The Vikings were unable to mount any offense on their next possession, and after a 15-yard punt, the Rams were set up in excellent field position at the Valley 40.
Seven plays later, Southern scored on a 14-yard run to extend the Rancho lead to 14-0.
The Rams turned the ball over twice late in the second quarter. One of those turnovers led to Valley’s only score of the half, a 1-yard run by Medlock to cut the Rams lead to 14-6 at the half.
“In the past, when adversity hits, Rancho folded, but this is a new breed of kids,” Pletsch said. “When adversity happened, our kids sucked it up. It’s something we have been preaching to them since December. Adversity happens, and when it happens, it’s how we react that is important.”
In the second half, the Rams took care of the mental lapses, pushing their lead to 20-6 when Southern scored on a 1-yard run. Southern finished the night rushing for 70 yards on nine carries. He also completed 4 of 5 passes for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Early in the fourth quarter, Howard scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 14-yard run to end the competitive phase of the game. Howard scored again on a 27-yard run as the crowd erupted, knowing the losing streak was officially ending.
“Robert Howard is a great running back,” Pletsch said. “He rushed for almost 1,100 yards as a junior. He’s our senior and he stepped up tonight for us. He wanted the ball in some situations and he made some big runs for us. This is his first win in four years and he’s loving it.”
Defensively, Makovia Hopson and Nathan Guido each had a sack for Rancho. The Rams defense pressured Medlock all night, sacking him five times.
Medlock rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries to lead Valley.