Royals out-muscle defending champs in opener
Stars and Stripes September 9, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The Stuttgart football team carried a flag around the field at Ramstein High School on Friday evening that read “pancake platoon” with a stack of the breakfast staple on it.
Any cook can tell you that flapjacks are meant to be flipped, though.
Enter the Royals. The hosts cooked up a physical game plan and handed Stuttgart its first loss since before the COVID-19 pandemic with a 14-9 opening-week victory.
“I’m in tears, I’m so happy,” Ramstein senior Landon Torroll said. “They beat our butts the past three years. Just to come out here and flip the script, I’m at a loss for words, it feels so great.”
Friday’s win was a night-and-day difference from the last time the Royals (1-0) and Panthers (0-1) met on a field. In last year’s Division I DODEA European semifinal matchup, the Panthers ran roughshod en route to a 46-0 win.
Ramstein coach Carter Hollenbeck said the Royals hit the weight room after that to increase their strength and speed. The result was taking it to Stuttgart early and holding on for the win.
“Hell of a game,” Hollenbeck said. “Stuttgart came to play. Love (Stuttgart) coach (Antoine) Reid, he’s a friend of mine, and he’s got them dialed in. That was a great game. I’m very proud of the team.”
Ramstein took the lead at the 1 minute, 40 second mark in the first quarter when quarterback Lucas Hollenbeck connected with junior wideout Caden Nims on a fly route along the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown.
Outside of that play, though, the Royals stuck mostly to the ground game.
Using a wishbone formation, Ramstein deployed a three-headed senior monster in fullback Torroll and tailbacks Jackson Arthaud and Ethan Wilson. Torroll led the way with 93 yards on 16 carries, punching in a 1-yard score at the 5:36 mark in the third period to make it 14-3. Arthaud, a Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native added another 76 yards on 21 attempts, and Wilson, a San Francisco native, amassed 54 yards on 11 runs.
While sometimes pitching the ball to the outside, the Royals stayed mostly between the tackles, especially when going with the quick-hitters by Torroll. The Denver native credited the offensive line with getting good pushes off the snap to give him and his fellow running backs space to run.
“Every huddle, I told them, ‘You guys are the reason we are winning this game,’” Torroll said. “I may have had a few good runs, Jackson may have had a few good runs, Ethan may have had a few good runs, we might have had a pass, but if it weren’t for the line, none of that would have happened.”
The Panthers didn’t go away quietly, though.
They started the game by airing out the ball through Ty Jones. The junior quarterback completed his first six passes for 101 yards, but penalties, errant snaps and a missed field goal killed multiple drives. Stuttgart finished the game with 14 penalties for 107 yards.
Jones finished 11-of-19 passing for 148 yards.
After going down 11 midway through the third quarter, the Panthers played some smashmouth football in the wishbone formation themselves. They rattled off an eight-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a Jack Gruver (66 yards on 18 carries) 2-yard touchdown at the 2:32 mark in the third.
A failed run for the two-point attempt made it a five-point game.
“I noticed that’s what they were doing to us,” Reed said of the change in offensive philosophy. “So, I said, let’s just do it back. We had a lot of success with that.”
Stuttgart couldn’t replicate the success of that drive, though, advancing as far the Ramstein 27-yard line early in the fourth quarter. That possession stalled and ended on downs.
Panther senior Gabe Tamez had two interceptions from his free safety spot and added 40 yards on four receptions as a receiver.
Hollenbeck said his players answered the bell for most of the game, but especially after giving up the touchdown. For him, the Royals showcased one of the squad’s four tenants: believing in their teammates.
“Our focus on the sideline is you got to trust and you believe in each other and we rock and roll,” Hollenbeck said. “This one feels good.”