Spence, Pinela lead Rams to big win on the road
Behind an impressive running game led by seniors Tyler Spence and Aldo Pinela and a lockdown defensive performance for the second straight week, the Roaring Fork Rams pulled away before halftime for a 41-13 win over the Grand Valley Cardinals, Friday.
Spence and Pinela combined for all six Rams touchdowns on the night, with Spence racking up more than 230 yards rushing to lead the way.
“Tyler is our team leader,” Rams head coach Jeff Kelley said. “ Tyler worked out in the weight room this summer more than anybody on our team, and it showed tonight because he’s like a little bowling ball.”
In the end, things went the way the Rams were hoping they would, but early on it appeared that the Rams were still celebrating last week’s win over Meeker when Pinela fumbled the ball away on the Rams’ fourth offensive play of the game. However, a quick three-and-out by Grand Valley, aided by a high snap that caused a loss of 21 yards allowed the Rams to get the ball back with no damage done.
“I was worried that we’d come out flat, especially coming off of last weeks win against Meeker, and we did,” Kelley said. We turned the ball over and just came out flat.”
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After trading two drives that yielded zero points, the Rams finally broke through against the Cardinals defense.
Featuring a heavy dosage of Spence and Pinela early, the Rams marched 75 yards in 11 plays, with the lengthy drive being capped off by a 4-yard run over the left side by Pinela. Forcing another three-and-out by the Cardinals offense — which finished with negative-26 yards in the first quarter, the Rams took over at their own 32-yard line looking to pull away. Two plays later, Spence raced untouched for a 68-yard touchdown that — at the time — took the wind out from underneath the Cardinals wings.
However, on the ensuing kickoff freshman running back Jonathan Pena picked up the bouncing ball, broke a few tackles in the initial first wave of defenders and raced down the right sideline for an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to pull the Cardinals within 13-6.
“He [Pena] did really well tonight,” Cardinals head coach Tim Lenard said. “He made a few mistakes tonight, but overall I was really proud of the way he performed tonight, especially being such a young kid.”
Looking to regain momentum on their next drive, the Rams couldn’t get out of their own way as they racked up four penalties, including two false starts.
As the Cardinals struggled to get anything going offensively once again, the Rams put together another impressive drive as Pinela scored his second touchdown of the game from four yards out to make it 19-6, Rams.
The drive feature runs of 17 and 20 yards by Spence and Pinela, respectively, and a 33-yard halfback option pass from Spence to Jake Kelley.
“I think we were trying to get out of our funk of being flat,” Kelley said. “So you throw a trick play in there to try and gain some momentum.”
With the Cardinals on the ropes defensively, the Rams put together another impressive drive just before the end of the first half, highlighted once again by a big trick play.
Starting at Grand Valley’s 41-yard line, the Rams picked up a quick 21 yards on a hook-and-ladder to Spence, which started with a completion from quarterback Hayden Bernot to Pinela, who flipped to a streaking Spence.
A facemask penalty against the Cardinals pushed the Rams into the red zone. Four plays later — sandwiched in between three offensive penalties — Spence plunged in from 11 yards out to put Roaring Fork up 27-6 at the half.
Coming out of halftime, neither team was able to find the end zone in the third quarter until Pena fumbled the ball on a bad exchange at his own 12-yard line with 13 seconds left in the third.
A host of Rams recovered the ball at the bottom of the pile, and one play later Pinela added another touchdown to his stat sheet — his third of the night, this time from 12 yards out. He’d add the two-point conversion to make it 35-6, Rams after three quarters.
Trying to get back into the game early in the fourth quarter, Cardinals quarterback Jeffrey Holbrook found Caleb Hughes in the back of the end zone from 18 yards out to give Grand Valley late life, but another back-breaking drive from the Rams — this one a 15-play, 67-yard drive put the final nail in the coffin as Pinela scored his fourth touchdown of the game from nine yards out to make it 41-13, Rams, which would hold up as the final score.
With the win, the Rams, under Kelley in his first year, matched the win total from 2014, but a game-high 21 penalties is concerning to Kelley and his staff, especially early in the season.
“I guess we’re the [Oakland] Raiders, huh?” Kelley said. “I didn’t know it was that many, but it felt like a lot. We were flat and didn’t execute, so we’ll have to watch the film and see what was mental mistakes.”
For the Cardinals, it’s a tough loss, but one that will help a young team grow, especially the way the Cardinals kept fighting to stay alive play after play, led by Holbrook, Pena and freshman running back Evan Nolan.
The continuous fight and show of heart by Grand Valley through four quarters was not lost on Lenard.
“We’re young and we’re going to take some lumps, but we kept fighting for four quarters and I appreciate that out of the kids.,” Lenard said. “We’ve just got to get back on Monday and get better.”
Next Friday, the Cardinals will travel to Coal Ridge to take on the Titans starting at 7 p.m., and the Rams will travel to Olathe with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament this weekend.