Ramstein High School’s Royals football team was in position to earn another Department of Defense Education Activity prep football championship but fell short in a wild 26-21 loss to Stuttgart. This was the third time in four seasons that the Royals have gotten to the title game with lots of momentum shifts and big hits, keeping the large crowd frenzied until the final moments.
Ramstein held leads on multiple occasions in the game, staged on the Kaiserslautern High School campus at Vogelweh. The Royals scored after an early Panther fumble, when Naser Eaves caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Trevor Miller. The Royals looked to Eaves on both sides of the ball and the tall junior repeatedly made plays that mattered.
The offensive star of the night for Ramstein was senior Gevaughn Bracy, who scored two touchdowns and racked up 128 all-purpose yards. He had a pair of long gains wiped out on consecutive penalties late in the third quarter but coaches called his number again and he rambled 41 yards for a touchdown, putting the Royals ahead 21-20 following a third extra-point kick by Dylan Grimes.
“I was exhausted out there and that third play, I didn’t expect it, but the hole opened up and I was like ‘Touchdown!’ said Bracy. “It was back and forth for us and for them all night. At the end it was just two good football teams and someone had to make a big play. Unfortunately, it was someone on the other team.”
Stuttgart’s game-winner was by receiver Devon Burton on a seam route touchdown throw from quarterback Chris Magalona. The Panthers swept left end on a two-point conversion try but Ramstein’s Detajee Johnson slammed the ball carrier and kept the score at 26-21, giving Ramstein hope of a final comeback.
“This was everything a championship game ought to be,” said first-year RHS coach Carter Hollenbeck. “When you have a five-point game, that’s a play or two, here or there, and it could go either way. Our first game against Stuttgart we weren’t gelled as a team. Offensively or defensively, we just weren’t together. For this second one, we game-planned, we focused … I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Ramstein varied its offensive schemes with Jakob Steinbeck under center but spent most of the night with Miller calling signals. Miller threw complete to Eaves on the last Ramstein possession, setting the Royals up at the 26-yard line, but a pair of long heaves to the end zone were defended nicely by Stuttgart’s Will Tonder and the Panthers took over to run out the clock. It was the second time the Panthers had beaten RHS, after their 22-9 regular season victory in September.
“When we were going to play Stuttgart the first time, we didn’t set foot on the practice field the whole week because it was rainy and bad weather,” Miller said. “It was all just ‘film Monday, film Tuesday, and no actual practices. We didn’t get to run through the plays that Stuttgart ran and we didn’t really prepare. This game – hats off to Stuttgart. They played a hell of a game.”
Stuttgart head coach Billy Ratcliff said his staff made changes from that first encounter. “They hadn’t seen us throw to our running back as much and we really went there a lot tonight. Our receivers made some big catches for us and we were just able to make a couple more plays than they did. Ramstein did a lot of things right, too, in this game and they were really up to the challenge.”
Nick Clinton and Sean Elliott were defensive RHS stalwarts and combined for over 20 tackles in the game. A senior linebacker, Elliott gave credit to his coaches while Clinton stated it was teammates around him who put him in position to make his big hits.
“We were not this same team when we played them the first time,” Elliott said. “Today, I am extremely proud of my guys and we were so close to winning this game. I know Ramstein will be back.”
Bailey Holland also had a big game for the Royals, running the football for over 60 yards and making some key tackles on defense. “I didn’t run the ball the first time we played Stuttgart so tonight was different,” Holland said. “We did a lot of things better this time and I am going to miss playing with all these seniors who will graduate.”
“Number 47 is the heart of the team,” Hollenbeck said of Holland. “He does so much for us and he is a leader out there. Like I said, with a five-point game there are going to be two or three plays that, if they had gone different, could have changed the outcome. There wasn’t anything really negative about the way we played this game. All these players gave us huge effort but we just fell short.”
Early in the fourth quarter with Ramstein leading, senior defender, CJ Jackson, picked up an apparent fumble and made a long run to the end zone. Officials had whistled the play dead and ended a wild celebration by fans, then on the next snap Stuttgart’s Magalona threw the touchdown to Burton that pushed the Panthers in front for good.
The first half was riddled with penalties on both teams plus turnovers that set up scores. Following Ramstein’s first touchdown, the Royals bobbled a punt snap and Stuttgart came out of the scrum with a recovery in the end zone. Ramstein punter Matthew Reismann was injured on the play and taken from the field by paramedics for precautionary reasons. He returned to his team’s sideline in the fourth quarter and watched the late Royals’ rally fall short.
“The pace of the game went really fast,” Clinton said. “It was pretty much what I expected. Our team had gotten better throughout the year and we were able to contain them better. It was back and forth. We were focused on containing their receivers and we wanted to keep their running backs in check because they are so fast … making sure we wrap up.”
Hollenbeck said there were far more positive aspects of the season to be outweighed by the championship game loss. “The kids did a good job of buying in with our philosophy of playing hard, having fun, and respecting the game. When all that happens, success takes care of itself. We work hard at practice. We build a character program. If we lose we will look at the opponent and say ‘good game.’ There are always going to be growing pains.”