By Brian Rutherford

By Brian Rutherford

Herald Democrat

SADLER — If the S&S Rams are going to break a playoff drought dating back to 1998, they wanted to make sure a pivotal contest against Tom Bean wasn’t coming down to the wire for a second straight season.

S&S scored three times in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 42-21 victory against the Tomcats in the District 7-2A (II) opener on Friday night.

When Tom Bean (3-3, 0-1) edged S&S (6-0, 1-0) for the district’s final playoff spot last season, it came on the strength of a 38-35 win. This game was headed for a tight finish as the Rams, who beat Tom Bean for the first time in six seasons, led by seven after three quarters.

After the two teams traded a pair of scores in the first half, S&S got stellar defensive pressure on the Tomcat offense in the second half. The Rams also made the most of their opportunities, scoring on four of their six second-half possessions.

"You can tell there’s a difference in the ball team that played in the second half. We want to react fast defensively, they just did their job." Rams head coach Garrett Patterson said. "We came out a little slow in the first half, but our quarterback stepped up and made some huge passes for us, helped balance out our offense a little bit."

Midway through the third quarter, after a 40-yard dash by Willie Winborne, senior Trenton Nolan found the end zone for the second time, giving S&S a lead they would not relinquish.

Winborne who rushed for 116 yards on 20 carries, scored twice and registered an important sack to seal the win.

Down 21-14 late in the third quarter, Hunter Book came up short on a quarterback sneak, forcing Tom Bean to turn the ball over on downs. Five plays later Reed Collum extended the lead to two touchdowns with a 19-yard pass to Matt Farrell.

Book put the Tomcats back to within one score when he found junior wide receiver Tanner Ellis for a 67-yard dart down the sideline with just under eight minutes left. Book, who was intercepted twice, completed 7-of-21 pass attempts for 169 yards.

"We have to finish games," Tom Bean head coach Allen Cross said. "Defensively, we keyed in on [Winborne], he’s a workhorse. I think we did a good job of that in the first half. But hats off to S&S, they’ve done a tremendous job."

S&S responded with four first downs on their next five offensive plays, leading to Winborne’s second score of the night. After the Rams defense forced Tom Bean to turn the ball over on downs for second time in three possessions, junior running back Wyatt Maher scored on a 15-yard run, giving the Rams a three-score lead.

The victory may have given the Rams an inside track to an elusive playoff spot and a chance at the program’s first ever district title but Patterson refused to look that far ahead.

"You’ve got to keep them grounded," he said. "We always talk about doing our job as best as we can and not being content with where we are at."

S&S will look to remain undefeated when Whitewright visits on Friday while Tom Bean will host Gunter.