Rams season ends with OT loss

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, Free Press Sports Columnist

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

It began on a pleasant day in September with a bunch of kids running around in circles and into each other, dropping balls and forgetting what they were supposed to do. You only knew they were a football team because the helmets gave them away.

It ended yesterday, a cloudy day in October with a bunch of young men battling for every inch of ground, supporting each other through tough times. You knew they were a football team because they played like one. Not perfect but a far cry from when they started.

The season didn't end the way the Laurier Rams would have wanted. They lost a 20-17 Thames Valley Region consolation playoff quarter-final in overtime to the Oakridge Oaks.

The Rams, trying to rebuild their football program, moved into the B Division this year. Next year they'll be back in C. They were in a constant battle to get better with not enough players, not enough experience and not enough time in the season to bring everything together.

But they were getting there.

A pass from quarterback Kyle Dukic to Curt Spring and a short run by Tom Chambers gave the Rams a 14-0 lead. It looked as if they were headed for another week of football.

But the Oaks came back to tie the game.

Fast forward to overtime. The Rams took the lead again on a Tshaka Anderson field goal. All they needed was to hold the Oaks from the 30-metre line.

Oakridge marched the ball to the one-metre line. The realization that it was over sank in even before the final play. Tears started to flow. The Oaks' Cody Roberts ran for the winning touchdown, formalizing the win.

Now the tears really flowed.

Josh Rubio, Shane Dukic and Omar Chams lay sprawled on the field.

As the teams came off the field, the detritus of the season was obvious. Thanh Tram on crutches with pins and screws in his broken ankle. He only played football because he wanted to get in shape for basketball season. Now there's no basketball.

J.D. Gwalchmai injured a knee.

Fraser Christiaans, one of the Rams' better players, wanted to play despite a separated left shoulder. He taped it in practice the night before the game. "I'm not going to miss my last game in high school," he said. "I can hit with my right shoulder."

But he couldn't lift his shoulder to put on his sweater. Yesterday, he was on the bench.

"In the end it was too painful," he said. "If I had played it was going to be for me and not the team. They have someone who is healthy to play for me and that's better for the team."

There is a price to pay for being competitive.

Said coach John Kublinskas: "They gave it all. We could have folded. We could have quit. We could have yelled at the referees, but we had guys who grew up to be men today. It's more than football. This is a high school emotion. It's like nothing else."

Kyle Dukic took a small group aside and they knelt in a circle. They were the vets -- Chambers, Christiaans, Spring, Ben Todd, Munir Bahbah, Adrian Luther -- guys who played their last high school game.

"I just told them how great it was to play with them and that we need to keep in touch," said Dukic.

Richard Cooper, defensive co-ordinator, lagged behind everyone as he walked off the field. He ripped up a handful of Oakridge grass and stuck it in his pocket.

"It's the last game for the veterans, they'll want it later," he said.

There is a tradition the Rams have during what may be the last practice. Players form a tunnel and veteran players run under it. Kublinskas didn't do it.

"I didn't want to give them the feeling that it would be the last game. We wanted to think there would be practice on Monday." he said.

There will no practice Monday but Kublinskas believes there will be a better tomorrow.

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