Auburn, Ala.--It has been 43 years since a Birmingham City School won a football state championship, but on Friday night the Ramsay Rams ended that drought in dramatic fashion with a 21-16 win over Opelika in the Super 7 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn
Getting 158 yards rushing and 132 yards passing and three touchdowns from senior quarterback Baniko Harley, Ramsay finished off what has been an incredible run to the 6A state title.
A program that was shut down for 35 seasons before starting back up in 2012, the Rams made the playoffs each of the last two seasons before putting it all together this year. Losing only to Georgia powerhouse Grayson and Mountain Brook this year, Ramsay was primed to finish it off with a title and that’s what they got on Friday night.
But it was far from easy.
It was Opelika that drew first blood on Friday night in the finale of the Super 7 as the Bulldogs took over on the Ramsay 45-yard line and drove eight plays to the one. From there it was Weldrin Ford doing the damage as he cruised in for his 25th touchdown of the season to give Opelika the early advantage.
That’s what Harley took over for the Rams. Getting the ball on his own 15, the quarterback raced eight yards and following an offsides penalty on Opelika he was off to the races with a 69-yard gain deep into Bulldogs’ territory. He finished off the drive with a nine-yard strike to Parrish to cut the lead to 7-6.
Early in the second quarter the Rams again set off on an 85-yard scoring drive, this one to take the lead. The big play in the drive was a 32-yard scamper by Harley that moved the ball to the Opelika eight-yard line. Three plays later he would again hit Parrish for the score. The two-point conversion failed but Ramsay led 12-7.
Late in the first half Ramsay drove from its own 28 to the Opelika two with a Harley 30-yard run the big play. With just seconds left in the first half Joshua Horn’s 25-yard field goal put the Rams up 15-7 at the break.
It didn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse for the Bulldogs as a fumble on the opening kickoff set up the Rams in great field position at the Opelika 16. Six plays later Harley had his third passing touchdown of the game when he hit Kordell Jackson for six. The two-point conversion again failed, but just minutes into the second half the Rams had a commanding 21-7 lead.
Opelika wouldn’t go down without a fight however, even with starting quarterback J.D. Worth out of the game with an injury. Turning to linebacker Zach Yancey and his Super 7 record 18 tackles, the Bulldogs got stop after stop of Ramsay in the second half to keep the Bulldogs in the game and allow the special teams to take over.
The first big play came with Opelika stopped at the Ramsay 40-yard line just seconds into the fourth quarter. On fourth down the Bulldogs rolled the dice with a fake punt and ace pass rusher Talik Jackson raced for a touchdown to cut the lead to just seven.
Sensing the momentum going the other way with Opelika forcing a fourth and 27 from their own 14-yard line, Harley and teammate Deshaun Oliver decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of punting Harley dropped a pass over the middle to Oliver and he did the rest, picking up 29 yards and a first down. Even though Ramsay didn’t score they did waste precious time off the clock, something Opelika needed late.
Opelika’s offense couldn’t do anything with the ball on its next possession, but a deep punt pinned Ramsay back inside their own 10. That set up the final big special teams play of the night for Opelika when the punt snap sailed over Harley’s head for a safety.
Now down just five, Opelika got the ball one final time with a chance to win it. Driving from their own 20 to the 40 the Bulldogs faced a fourth and one with just over a minute left, but running back Weldrin Ford was stopped short allowing Ramsay to run out the clock and secure the victory.