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Rams stumble in home football opener
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Rams stumble in home football opener

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Perhaps there was a bit of foreshadowing for Winston-Salem State’s first home football game in 686 days — before the opening kickoff.

Three members of a military paratrooper team all landed on the field under duress, two of them toppling face-first to the ground. The other came down hard on his backside.

The Rams fell flat in their home opener, losing 19-14 to Elizabeth City State to fall to 0-3 on a day when they honored longtime coach and athletics director Bill Hayes by naming the field after him.

Despite their struggles, the Rams had a chance late in the fourth quarter to win the game before Cameron Davis’ third interception of the game fell into the hands of a Vikings defender with two seconds left, sewing up the win.

The Rams dug themselves a 13-0 hole in the first half after being held to 84 yards of offense and committing two turnovers to go along with three 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. They finished with four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) and seven penalties for 109 yards, including a costly pass interference penalty on a third-and-13 play in the fourth quarter. That cost the Rams the chance to get the ball back with plenty of time left.

Much like the paratroopers before the game, there were plenty of mistakes.

“We dug ourselves a hole from the beginning,” said Winston-Salem State coach Robert Massey. “We’re not playing good come-from-behind football right now, so we need to stay out front. We didn’t do that today. We tried to force the ball in the passing game and made some untimely decisions.”

The Rams seemed to get a spark in the third quarter, after an interception by Joshua Flowers on the Vikings’ opening drive of the second half at the 44-yard line.

Nine plays later, the Rams scored their first points on a 1-yard run by quarterback Cameron Lewis that cut the lead to 13-7.

Winston-Salem State forced a three-and out on the Vikings’ next drive but lost momentum with another interception, setting up a short field for Elizabeth City State at the Rams’ 26.

The Rams’ defense stood firm and forced a fourth-and-goal from the 21-yard line, but Brandon Joyner hauled in a pass from Kevin Caldwell in the right corner of the end zone to push the lead to 19-7 with 8:23 left.

“That put us in a tough spot again after another mistake,” Massey said. “But we responded and scored on the next drive. We just needed to get one more stop on defense.”

Despite the mistakes, Massey said he was was encouraged by his team’s effort — especially in the second half. There were plenty of positives. Cameron Davis (80 yards) and Andrew Hayes (75 yards, one touchdown) emerged in the running game and the Rams defense allowed just 80 yards of offense in the second half.

“We can still put ourselves in position to make a run in our division,” Massey said. “There is plenty of football left. Things can still fall our way for us to be in the hunt. Now we need to make sure those obstacles that got in our way this week don’t beat us next week. It’s definitely a disappointment with this being our first home game in nearly two years. But we faced a quality opponent today that we thought we could beat, and they played their butts off today, so hats off to them.”

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