The Highland Tech Rams walked off the field victorious for the first time in over three seasons friday night in a home non-conference game over Christ the King Catholic High School from Huntersville. The players would be joined on the field by fans, students and parents for a long-awaited victory celebration.
The Rams won a game last season – a forfeit over Grace Crossing HomeSchool. Prior to that, Highland’s last victory came in October 2013. This was the first time any of the players on the roster celebrated a win on the field. Not counting the forfeit, Highland had lost to 36 straight varsity opponents.
One person not able to join in was head coach Darren Sheperd. He had been ejected early in the third quarter, per the rules, because an assistant coach had been tossed.
After building an early lead, the Rams had seen momentum shift to start the second half with penalties being their biggest problem. When Caleb Hill’s 98-yard rushing touchdown was nullified by another flag, frustration hit its boiling point and the ejections occurred.
After the game, Shepherd didn’t let the word bittersweet fly.
“There is nothing bittersweet about this. Our guys put in the work and this game was won in the trenches. It was won in the weight room this offseason, it was won because of the fight in these kids and it was won because they bought into a system. It was a team win because these kids were prepared,” he said.
The Rams jumped out to a 7-0 lead early on the Crusaders when Jeremiah Wallace hauled in a 10-yard pass from QB Wiley Martin. Bryson Law would carry it in from 7 yards out at the end of the first quarter to make it 14-0 and Gavin Davis would extend the lead to 20-0 on a 42-yard hookup from Martin. The Crusaders got on the board near the end of the first half with a 30-yard field goal.
Early in the third, Martin would step out of the back of the end zone for a safety and shortly thereafter, Crusader RB Drew Brenner would break a 45-yard run for a TD cutting the Ram lead to 20-12. .
The Rams would find the spark they needed in backfield veteran Caleb Hill. The versatile, speedy Hill would not be denied as his huge second half resulted in two touchdown drives to put the game away and set off the long awaited celebration.
Hill would rush 16 times for 116 yards in the game with 90 of those coming on the final two touchdown drives. On defense, his interception killed the only first half drive across midfield for Christ the King and later, his read of a fake punt and tackle set up the short field for the Rams second touchdown. Shepherd called Hill the “Swiss Army Knife” for his team. The junior is a linebacker on defense while splitting time as a receiver, quarterback, running back, kicker and punter.
Racking up over 20 penalties will give Highland plenty of things to work on this week in practice, but for one night, a win years in the making is reason to celebrate.