BAUMHOLDER, Germany — It is said that football champions are made in the fourth quarter. By that measure, this year’s Ramstein Royals are a DODDS champion for the ages.
Undefeated Ramstein shook off a frustrating first half and a third-quarter deficit with a barrage of final-quarter touchdown runs, finally putting down a determined Patch squad and claiming the Division I title with a 26-7 victory Saturday.
“I think we needed to get back to this point,” said Royals coach Carlos Amponin. “This is the deepest team we’ve had, so if we didn’t win it this year, I don’t know how long it would be until we got back here.”
Baumholder’s historic Minick Field was more surf than turf by the time Division I set foot on it, churned in equal measure by nature’s wrath and the cleats of four football teams.
After a frustrating evening of missed opportunities and trailing 7-6 midway through the third quarter, Amponin scrapped his usually productive three-quarterback set and handed the reins to his star, Dylan Le Page.
After a drive that was nearly exclusively Le Page keepers, the senior took the snap and kept it again from a yard out, sprawling backwards into the end zone and seizing a 12-7 Royals lead with 7 minutes, 17 seconds to play.
Not satisfied with that slim margin, Le Page sprinted into the end zone from 48 yards on Ramstein’s following possession, expanding the lead to 19-7 with just over four minutes remaining. A late Lucas Mireles score — his second of the game as well — iced the championship.
“He’s my guy,” said Amponin of Le Page. “We know when it comes to crunch time, he’s a tough kid, and when the game is on the line he wants the ball in his hands.”
That despite a thorough beating from Panthers defenders that left the slender Le Page bruised and exhausted.
“They hurt real bad,” Le Page said of the rugged Patch tacklers. “I don’t know any team this year that hit me like that.”
With the win, Ramstein completes its undefeated season, claims its first title since 2009 and alleviates the frustration of last year’s championship game, a 25-23 loss to Wiesbaden.
Despite a championship-level three quarters, Patch was unable to summon the same forces that fed its semifinal upset of Vilseck last weekend. The Panthers (5-3) ultimately had no reply for a Ramstein attack that was wounded but refused to die.
“I don’t think the score is indicative of how we played,” said Patch head coach Bill Ratcliff, citing Ramstein’s enormous offensive line for the fourth-quarter Royal barrage. “We weren’t supposed to be here. We wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
Amponin believes Patch proved just that.
“They played a great game,” Amponin said, gesturing to the runner-up Panthers squad huddled near its sideline after the loss. “I want to make that real clear.”