Rams arrive at historyBy JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 15, 2002
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Tonight, Ridgewood will boldly go where no Ram has gone before: the playoffs.
Finally, 19 years of futility is over. Ridgewood is in the playoffs, and it's no fluke.
The Rams tied a school record this season, going 6-4 (The 1985 team got its sixth victory by forfeit.) and earned the Class 4A, District 6 runner-up spot with old-fashioned, smash-mouth offense, solid defense and a quiet confidence that belies their dismal past.
But history is not on first-year coach Troy Cornwell's mind. His task has been to do everything he can to not only prepare the Rams for the game at Belleview's Strike Zone, but keep them on an even keel.
The Rams are not overly excited or emotional. Nor are they satisfied just to make it. Tonight is Game 11, with Game 12 on the line. Tonight is a business trip, plain and simple.
"We haven't changed our practice schedule or anything like that," Cornwell said. "Obviously, it's what we call the second season. "Now you take it one game at a time. We'll get on the bus, travel up to Belleview and try our best to beat them."
Players quickly got used to the idea of practicing this late in the year for a meaningful game for a team that has not played many.
"It's great to know we're practicing for something," senior wideout/defensive back Kale Durocher said. "Last year, probably for the last three years, the last game didn't mean anything."
This one does. Belleview might be the toughest foe Ridgewood has faced this side of Land O'Lakes. In many ways, the Diamondback Rattlers (7-3) mirror their playoff foe. They believe in smash-mouth, I-formation ball control and solid defense.
"We're boring," coach Eddie Anderson said.
After watching film of 6-foot-4, 240-pound tailback Adamm Oliver run for some of his 1,154 yards and 15 touchdowns, he said he sees the similarities.
"I look at that tailback. I look at that O-line, and I see us," Anderson said. "They're doing a lot of good things on offense, and Coach Cornwell has instilled a belief in that team to come as far and play as great as they have." Said Cornwell, "They're a physical football team. They'll punch you right in the mouth. They're a lot like us."
To earn the school's first playoff victory, Cornwell said the Rams must impose their will on the opponent before the Rattlers do. "Our game plan is to control the ball," he said. "We believe we can do that on the ground. We're going to go right at them. For us to be successful, we have to avoid the three-and-out on offense."
To do that, Cornwell said he doesn't want his players to deviate from the successful formula -- mentally and physically -- they've used in six victories. "What you do is like what we've done all year," he said. "We watch film. We see their strengths and weaknesses. Then we go out and execute. We don't look at the film and say we can't beat these guys.
"It's just a matter of the kids believing in themselves and believing in us."
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