UPPER SANDUSKY - By the time Upper Sandusky head football coach Jake Moyer had put the headset on and arrived on the sideline, his Rams had already gained a first down and fumbled once.
But then again, it had already been a night of Moyer having a hard time catching on to things.
As it turns out, their opponent Friday night had the same problem as Buckeye Central didn't catch on until the second half in a 26-8 defeat to the Rams.
Moyer was honored by the district for his more than four decades of coaching on Friday night as former players and coaches turned out in a surprise ceremony prior to kickoff. The veteran coach is in his final season as a coach and educator as he plans to retire at the end of the school year.
"I had no idea. I had no clue (that was going to happen)," Moyer said. "I had no inkling. It was like a very strange dream, like Rod Serling had wrote the script or something. My older son (Erin) got it started. He got this started in July I was told. He got it on Facebook."
Well, that's one way to keep a surprise from Moyer.
"I never get on Facebook. I don't even know how to get on Facebook," Moyer said. "One of my former coaches came from Minnesota. My nephews came up from Marysville. Bobby Wolfe, former head coach at Tiffin University, came down from Cleveland. Seeing him was wonderful and many, many friends and relatives. I was just shocked."
Upper Sandusky athletic director Brad Ehrman escorted Moyer over there after the team ran out onto the field just minutes before the game for the surprise ceremony.
"It was like a dream because I kept seeing people who shouldn't be here at this game. It was like, I should wake up now," Moyer said. "I saw a couple of my friends and I thought, 'Oh, it's nice to see them. Then I saw my wife (Pat) and it was nice to see my wife. This is all still trying to register in this old computer up here (in my head)."
Once the hugs and tears were done, Moyer had plenty to smile about in the first half as the Rams (7-1, 4-1 North Central Conference) rolled out to a 26-0 halftime lead, thanks to the arm and legs of talented quarterback Tylor Pritchard.
The senior QB rushed for three touchdowns on gallops of 8, 33 and 7 yards and tossed a 17-yard touchdown to Kolin Holloway as the Rams built an insurmountable lead. He finished with 100 yards passing and 165 yards rushing on 23 carries, including some backbreaking runs on third down to keep some drives alive.
"Anytime you have a quarterback like that, and it seems like we've been having one every week this year, they're dangerous," Buckeye Central coach Jeff Niedermier said. "Whether they're going to try to throw the ball and if you contain them there, they're going to take off with it. So (they're) tough kids to bring down and it's been like that every week it seems like."
The Bucks (2-6, 1-4) were kind of like Moyer in that they were a bit slow to get into the game. The Rams defense held the Bucks to 75 yards and four first downs in the first half.
"The first half was a little rocky for our guys. We gave up 26 points obviously in the first half," Niedermier said. "In the second half, we really challenged our guys to come out and get it done. They shut them out defensively and offensively we got a few points."
But come the second half, the Bucks came out firing and moving the ball.
On the first drive of the second half, Buckeye Central drove to the Upper 13 before fumbling the ball away.
Six plays later, BC had the ball back and started back toward the end zone. This time the fumble came on the doorstep of the end zone as the Rams recovered it on the Upper 1.
Upper Sandusky looked like it was going to escape from having its back against the wall with a 26-yard pass play, only to have it waved off when the Rams were called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety and Buckeye Central's first points of the game.
After the free kick, the Bucks continued its assault on the Upper Sandusky defense, driving 45 yards and scoring on an Alec Baldosser 3-yard plunge. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving BC trailing 26-8.
Buckeye Central only had two more possessions the rest of the game but couldn't get the ball out of its own end of the field.
"The first half we played very, very well. The second half, they started to blitz us a little bit and we didn't do a very good job of picking up the blitz and our offense just bogged down," Moyer said. "But our defense held tough. We didn't let them move the ball very much. So we got the victory because of our defense not because of our offense, especially in the second half."
The bulk of the Bucks offense came on the legs of Baldosser (65 yards rushing) and Cody Roberts (76 yards rushing). Jordan Herrnstein had 80 yards receiving.
Holloway finished with 60 yards receiving on six catches and Donald Barth tossed in 58 yards rushing.
The lack of offense in the second half for the Rams has Moyer concerned, because if the Rams don't find the accelerator soon, the playoffs are going to zoom out of sight.
"Yeah (I felt we let off the gas). I really do. When you're up like that, it's tough to get them refocused. When we're on, we're hot. We can make things happen. If we lose our focus because we're ahead, it's tough to get them regenerated again," Moyer said. "We can't afford to do that against Colonel Crawford. They're too good a team. They're too experienced. They're too well coached."