The Robertsville Rams capped off a great season Thursday night with a 34-14 win over conference rival Rhea Central Middle School. The Rams finish the season with an 8-1 overall record, with their only loss coming in a double overtime thriller against Christian Academy of Knoxville.
This team is the first to win a conference championship at Robertsville since 2006. The win over Rhea Central marks an impressive seven-game win streak for the Rams football program led by some strong future Oak Ridge Wildcats.
“This team has been fun to coach. They battle every game. Even in our one loss, they realize and see how close we were,” said Chris Layton, head football coach of Robertsville Middle School. “The best part is from that moment on, they learned one important lesson. They learned to develop a hatred for losing. I told them anyone can love to win, that’s easy. But it’s the guy who hates to lose that we need. They showed that hatred for losing from that point on and never looked back.”
The Rams dominated in the first quarter against Rhea Central and led at the end of the first quarter 20–0. The dominance came from the Rams and their backfield featuring eighth-grader Adarius Simpson, who rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries and the game’s first score.
“Adarius Simpson is a football player, plain and simple,” Layton said. “He’s tougher than a waffle house steak. To top it off, he’s a leader. You’re talking about a guy who ran for 1,000 yards as a seventh-grader and was splitting carries this year with our dynamic duo of backs in seventh grade, and he never said a word. He just worked, and performed. That’s a leader.”
In addition to Simpson, the Rams got another great effort from a pair of seventh-graders, Jordan Graham and Tre Jackson. Graham scored the Rams’ second touchdown with a long run in the second series to make the lead 14-0, after a two point conversion by Simpson. Graham was the second-leading rusher with 96 yards on 11 carries.
“Jordan is going to be a special high school football player, it’s obvious, but I’m happy as can be he has one more year to be a Ram,” Layton said. “Every time he touches the ball, you better buckle your seat belt because he’d score on a 300-yard run if the field were that long. He’s a special athlete. His quick moves and vision to see the cutback lanes has gotten better every week”
He also had an 86-yard touchdown called back right before the half on a procedural penalty.
Graham and Jackson combined to seal the victory in the fourth quarter with two huge plays. On fourth-and-nine, Graham took to the right edge and seemed stopped, but he reversed field and picked up 10 yards to keep the drive alive.
Tre Jackson, another stellar seventh-grade running back, had a big night with 12 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Not only can Tre absolutely fly, but he loves to deliver the blow to someone just for fun,” Layton said. “Last (week), he not only decided to take the corner, but he found Rhea Central players to plow as he did it. At one point, I was on the headset, and he ran to the far side near the Rhea Central sideline and I heard a boom and I said, ‘Tre just took a shot’ and coach Kevin Angel corrected me and said, ‘Nope, he just delivered one.’ Tre is a physical and incredibly fast young man, and I expect to see many great things in the future for him as well.”
The offense was run soundly by signal caller Cobe Walls, who also added a one-yard touchdown run to give the Rams a 20-0 lead in the second quarter.
“Cobe Walls had a tremendous season for us running this offense as a captain, as a leader and as a signal caller,” Layton said. “Having Cobe on the field in many ways was like having another coach, but one that could run, pretty well and make big time plays when needed.”
On the defensive side of the football, the Rams were on a mission. After giving up 20 points and big runs up the middle to Rhea Central a week prior, the Rams seemed set on playing relentless football. The defensive effort was led by eighth-grade defensive end Jayson Colwell who recorded 12 tackles.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Rhea Central is still having nightmares about Jayson Colwell,” Layton said. “At a towering 6’5, 205 pounds he is an imposing force. His football skill and ability is far beyond most players his age, and he shows it. It seemed like every time they ran to his side, he swallowed the play up.”
His effort on the edge combined with the solid play inside by Jack Borchers, Sam McFarland, Luke Bridgeman, Jayven Booker, Tony Miller, and Garrett Wilson made the Rams front seven a stalwart to run against.
“Our front seven played lights out,” Layton said. “They responded from the first time we played this group, and you could see it early. Our defensive coordinator, Kevin Angel, put together a game plan to shut down what they like to do, and by the second series they were going away from their offense.”
Once the Rams flexed their muscle against the run, Rhea Central changed their game plan. As they took to the air, the defense saw more players rise to the occasion, including Jordan Graham, Levert Smith, Jacob Ownby, Garrett Wilson, and Tony Miller.
“As the game plan changed, our defense adjusted led by our linebackers and secondary,” Layton said. “They responded big time and in a big way.”
Robertsville finishes their season with an 8-1 overall record and an unblemished record in conference play. It is the first championship team at Robertsville since 2006, and the Rams also defended their title as City Champs to make it four years in a row.
“This is a special group, and when you combine it with the last few teams over the last few years, Oak Ridge football, being led by Joe Gaddis, is in for some special times,” Layton said. “I told the kids last night to enjoy this because it’s a special feeling, but don’t stop here. This town needs a gold ball from the state championship game and it’s their job to go and get it. I think they, along with the groups at Oak Ridge High School right now, will.”