Cleveland’s high-octane offense and aggressive defense were simply too much for an undermanned Southern Wayne football team on Friday night.
Cleveland, ranked No. 9 in The News & Observer poll, rolled to a 49-0 victory – leading 42-0 at halftime before turning the second half over to the reserves. But for Rams coach Scott Riley, it was not about the numbers on the scoreboard.
“We talked all week about each game that we are trying to get better, to build to the playoffs,” Riley said. “I think they did that tonight. We want every kid to grade out the best they did all year. We’ll go watch film, but I think they did that.”
The Rams (4-1) were dominant in the opening half, scoring touchdowns every time they had the ball and limiting Southern Wayne (1-4) to minus-3 total yards of total offense.
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Senior quarterback Aaron Farmer passed for three touchdowns in the first half and junior running back Corey Brown rushed for a pair of scores and 153 yards. Brown had one carry in the second half, a 29-yard burst, to finish with 182 yards rushing.
How dominant were the Rams in the opening half? They had 367 yards of total offense (252 on the ground).
Farmer, a senior and returning starter, ran the Rams’ offense to perfection – pitching to Brown on the option, keeping the ball himself (he rushed for 45 yards on seven carries) and hitting open receivers (6-for-9 without a pick for 115 yards).
“With as much experience as he has, it almost like in college having a redshirt senior,” Riley said. “He played as a sophomore. Most kids don’t do that at quarterback. He’s got a lot more game experience than most seniors and it shows.”
Experience is a key this season for the Rams, who return 13 starters from a 9-4 team.
“Last year we were young and I think this year it is paying off having that experience,” Riley said. “I think overall, it was a great effort tonight.”
Cleveland took the opening kickoff and went 63 yards in eight plays, setting the tone for the impressive first half. Brown capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge.
After a bad snap on a punt on Southern Wayne’s first possession gave the Rams the ball at the Saints’ 11, Farmer hit Greg Tyler for an 11-yard score on first play and the rout was on.
Farmer made it 21-0 with an 11-yard scoring pass to Caiden Norman with 32.3 second left in the first quarter. On the Rams’ first possession of the second quarter, Farmer hit a streaking Tyler down the middle for a 38-yard score and a 28-0 lead.
Brown had his best run of the day to give the Rams a 35-0 lead, taking a pitch left and jetting down the sideline, then cutting back and going 32 yards for his second touchdown.
Brown has stepped in at running back after the graduation of Shrine Bowl back Isaac Martin. And he has hit the ground running, rushing for 735 yards and eight touchdowns in the Rams’ first five games.
“Coming in after Isaac, they were big shoes to fill and I think I’m doing a pretty good job but I just want to keep improving,” Brown said. “I’ve got to give the credit to my offense line. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have those touchdowns.”
Junior Jontavius Hill also got into the act on offense, scoring a pair of touchdowns for the Rams. Hill’s 9-yard run gave Cleveland a 42-0 lead in the final minutes of the first half and he added a 12-yard run on a fourth-and-goal play in the third period for the final score of the game.
The clock ran continuously in the second half because of the 42-point margin. After one series, Farmer, Brown and most of the Rams’ starters were on the bench watching the final 24 minutes.
They had done their job —with precision.