LIMA — To say the Lima Senior football players are confident right now might be a slight understatement.
After last week’s victory over Piqua, which snapped a 20-game losing streak for Lima Senior, the Spartans did it one better Friday night when Fremont Ross came to town for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
Lima Senior’s defense rose to the occasion on Friday, and the offense made just enough plays to pull out its school’s first-ever TRAC victory, 13-12 at Lima Stadium. This is Lima Senior’s third year in the TRAC.
Mike Fell returned to his alma mater this season to take over the Lima Senior program in hopes of getting it back on the winning track. Friday’s victory over Fremont Ross seemed to put a stamp on Fell’s return.
“It feels like the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” Lima Senior quarterback Justice Graham said. “We all worked hard for it. We deserve this win tonight. …We did it together.
“We knew it was coming. We all worked too hard for this. Coach Fell has come in and turned this around. He’s put a lot of motivation into our hearts. Everybody believes that we can win now.”
Lima Senior is now 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the TRAC. Fremont Ross slips to 2-2, 0-1.
Despite the rainy and messy conditions, Graham completed 12 of 16 passes for 144 yards. Graham had just one touchdown pass, but it was a big one.
With Lima Senior down 12-7 late in the fourth quarter, Graham found Marquis Graham open down the middle of the field for a 46-yard TD pass, giving the Spartans the lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lima Senior recovered a fumble but was unable to move the ball on that possession.
Fremont Ross had one more possession in the final two minutes of the game.
However, with the Little Giants driving down the field, quarterback Jarren Hampton (8 of 22, 53 yards) threw a pass over his intended receiver, and Lima Senior’s Marquis Miller intercepted the pass. The Spartans then ran the clock out for the win.
“They were keying on Juniel (Liles, a running back) there a little bit,” Fell said of the fourth-quarter TD pass. “The weather was pretty nasty, so we threw a couple short passes (earlier). But, we knew they would bite if we did a little up-and-out, and Marquis ran a great route and Justice put a perfect ball out there.”
Liles led the Spartans on the ground, rushing for 93 yards on 20 carries and a TD. As a team, Lima Senior rushed for 101 yards.
The Spartans, who gave up 40 points per game through the first three weeks, held the Fremont Ross offense to 298 total yards. Isaiah McDonald led the Little Giants with 156 rushing yards on 25 carries.
“I think a real key tonight was the defense. With coach (Frank) Crea and his defense, they got a little bit maligned in the first couple of weeks,” Fell said. “But, right now, they’re doing a great job. This was a big win for us, and the defense led the way.
“They had some horses up there and our guys just got after it, created a couple turnovers and they stayed with it.”
Lima Senior did strike first.
On its first possession of the game, the Spartans went 58 yards on four plays to get on the scoreboard. Liles capped off the drive with a 22-yard scamper to the end zone. With the point-after by Jacob Meyer, the Spartans led 7-0.
Fremont Ross would answer.
The Little Giants marched 61 yards on 17 plays, and Jeffery Barnett capped off the drive with a 15-yard run on a reverse play.
However, on the extra-point attempt by Fremont Ross, Lima Senior’s Bryan Mays broke through and blocked Patrick Rusher’s kick.
“I think one of the big keys tonight was B.J. Mays’ block on the extra point,” Fell said. “That won us the ball game. So, that’s a big part of the game.”
Fremont Ross scored another TD before the halftime break. Devante Daniels ran it in from 12 yards out, giving the Little Giants the 12-7 advantage.
However, the Spartans rose to the occasion in the second half.
Fell said his team should be ready to turn the corner.
“At least it (the wait for a TRAC win) is over. We’re out to win. (We are ) first place in the TRAC. … We’ll take it,” Fell said. “I told them that what I’m looking forward to is when we don’t have a huge party after we win a game, and we’re used to winning. But right now, it’s fun to see their faces.”