Royals clinch spot by pulling away from Stuttgart
October 15, 2016
RAMSTEIN, Germany -- A year ago, a tight football game between the Ramstein Royals and visiting Stuttgart Panthers evolved into one of the most dramatic finishes in DODEA-Europe football history.
This year, a similar game devolved into a standard-issue blowout. The Royals inflated a vulnerable eight-point halftime lead with a second-half onslaught Saturday in a 29-0 defeat of the defending champion Panthers.
The win clinched a playoff berth and a winning conference record for the Royals, who entered the weekend in a four-way tie for first place with Division I rivals Stuttgart, Lakenheath and Wiesbaden.
“With a new staff and new kids it’s taken us a little bit of time to jell,” Ramstein coach Carter Hollenbeck said. “We’re still working on getting better and better. We’re seeing improvement each day.”
The first half carried the aura of last fall's divisional semifinal clash, which Stuttgart won 10-8 on a flurry of clutch plays capped by a last-second game-winning field goal. The teams traded punts, interspersed with a handful of turnovers, as the Ramstein field grew increasingly muddy. Then Ramstein cleaned up its act with a touchdown drive and a safety on a botched Stuttgart punt attempt.
Three unanswered touchdowns in the second half drove the point home.
Royals quarterback Trevor Miller attributed the win to a “fantastic” offensive effort and a “perfect” defense, along with a bit of added motivation to avenge last season’s semifinal shocker.
“Knowing what Stuttgart did to us last year, I put that aside, but it was in the back of my mind,” said Miller, who was on the field as an outside linebacker for the stunning hook-and-ladder play that set up Stuttgart’s winning kick last fall. “I really kind of focused on winning the game and doing my job.”
While Ramstein secured its playoff spot Saturday, the defending champion Panthers still have some scrapping to do to reach the postseason. They’ll take on fellow 2-2 squad Vilseck next weekend in a game that will send its winner to the semifinals, and coach Billy Ratcliff acknowledged that a better effort than Saturday’s will be required to make that happen.
“We just didn’t play well. We made a lot of mental mistakes, a lot of physical mistakes,” Ratcliff said. “They wanted it more than our guys did today.”