By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
MOODY – Moody welcomed the defending 5A state champions to The Bill on Friday night in a game that would determine who would move on to the semi-finals of the playoffs and earn the right to play against Guntersville, who surprised Pleasant Grove on Friday night. Ramsay walked into Moody and, despite “a great offensive scheme that had us confused all night,” per one of the Ram defenders, the defending champs walked away with a 40-27 victory and continued their trek to win back-to-back championships in 5A.
Ramsay would get the ball first and drive the ball straight down the field for the opening touchdown of the game. The PAT would be blocked, making the score 6-0 Ramsay with 9:29 to play in the first. Moody would not be phased as the Blue Devils drove the ball down the field and, two minutes later, Charlie Johnston would find KD Barnes for a 16-yard touchdown. A Junior Moreno PAT would make it 7-6 Moody.
After Moody held Ramsay to a punt, the Blue Devils would set up shop and look to put another touchdown on the board. Instead, Johnston would roll out and attempt to find Braden Wright, but a Ramsay defender would step in front of the short pass and intercept it, returning it for a touchdown. A failed two-point try would make it 12-7 Rams.
The Blue Devils would answer the score with 14 seconds left in the first when Johnston would find his favorite touchdown catcher in the end zone, giving the Johnston to Barnes connection their second score on the night and putting Moody up 14-12 to end the first quarter.
The second quarter would be a defensive struggle. A struggle that would see Ramsay drive the ball down to the Moody five-yard line where the Blue Devil defense would tighten and hold Ramsay on a fourth down to get the ball back with 6:57 to go in the half.
Still unable to score, Moody gave the ball back to Ramsay and they would drive down and score again, this time on a long pass play, making it 18-14 Rams headed into the locker room.
Moody would get the ball first in the second half and on the kickoff, AJ Madison, who looked to be hurt at the end of the second quarter, would shake off any pain that he was feeling and return the kick 67 yards to the Ramsay 14-yard line. After a short run on first down, Jacob Hadaway would take the ball 12 yards to paydirt and put Moody up 21-18 with just a minute gone off of the third quarter clock.
Ramsay would be unphased by the success of Moody’s opening drive of the half as they simply drove the ball down the field, setting up shop on the Moody one and punching it in to go up 25-21 over the visitors.
Moody’s offense would be unable to find any footing on the next drive and Ramsay would capitalize, driving the ball down the field and scoring another touchdown, making it 32-21 Rams heading into the fourth.
Much of the same would happen in the fourth as Ramsay would score on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 10:51 to go in the game to make it 40-21 and the defending champions were rolling. After the offense stalled again, Ramsay got the ball but this time Amon Lane-Ganus would pick off a Ram pass and Moody would get the ball back with almost six minutes to play.
Johnston would throw his third touchdown of the night, this one to Aidan Robinson from 20 yards out with 2:49 to play. Moody would attempt an onside kick but Ramsay would recover. Moody would hold, but could not do anything on offense and the game would end as Ramsay took a knee to run out the clock and seal a 40-27 victory over Moody.
“We work from January to now for this moment,” said Coach Jake Ganus. “It wasn’t too big. They found a way to make more plays than we did. (KD) played good. We had a tough time. They blitzed and were very good up front. When we took some shots he did a good job. We just didn’t come away with enough of them. (Johnston) will continue to get better. He’s gotten better every game. That is the best defense we have seen. He took shots and got back up. I’m really proud of him. No loss is good. I will take the Nick Saban advice and never waste a failure. This was absolutely a failure and I won’t waste it. I want to win every game I coach in. I don’t believe in champions of life. I want to teach these kids to win.”
Talking about his seniors, Ganus said, “I appreciate these seniors a lot. They’ve done a lot for me. I met them when they were sophomores in December. To see them grow up and buy into the culture and help me lay this foundation…I cannot put into words what it means. Our juniors who will be seniors are going to continue this. There are things in our program that we have to fix if we want to go where we want to go.”
Senior Chase Jackson said, “I just have to keep my guys’ head up. It’s a hard time losing for the last time at home. I can’t show my emotions. I just have to help them. We set the standard. Those coming behind us just need to keep the standard and keep working.”
Senior Brady Dodd said, “I’m hurt. We gave it everything we had and came up short. They will come back harder next year. We had two years with these coaches but we needed more. The guys coming up, I love them all. My message to them is to keep grinding. Don’t be a ‘what if’ guy, be a ‘that was me’ guy.”
Senior Aidan Robinson said, “It sucks. I can’t play with my brothers anymore but I am blessed to have this journey. Got to keep God first. To underclassmen, work hard so you can go out winning and not feel like I do tonight.”
Junior quarterback Charlie Johnston spoke of the game, “I was proud of how we fought and stayed confident and kept the energy up. It was hard but we kept going and tried to keep the energy up. I love these seniors and I am going to miss them. They’ve helped me be a leader. I’m going to let this one sink in for tonight and it’s back to work and time to grow and see what I can improve on.”
Moody finishes 2023 with a 10-3 record after Friday’s loss. This is the first time in school history that the Blue Devils have won ten games in a season.
Ramsay will host Guntersville at Legion Field for the right to go to Tuscaloosa for the 5A state championship on Friday night.