The Truman student section was onto something before the game.
They started jumping up and down in the stands and created a cloud of baby powder which was tossed in the air by several in the crowd.
The students then starting chanting, “I believe that we will win!”
Their prophecy came true when the Patriot football team improved to 3-1 and 2-0 in the Suburban Middle Six Conference with a 35-12 win over Ruskin Friday at Independence All-School Stadium.
The win marked the best start for Truman since 1994 when the team began 4-0. The hot start – combined with a 2014 season which saw the Patriots have a winning season for the first time since 2004 (6-5) – has their fans excited and has the stands significantly more packed than two years ago.
“They love, we love it, everybody loves it,” Patriots defensive end/tight end Phillip Woosley said of the team’s recent success.
Truman coach Gregg Webb concurred.
“We’ve made great strides,” he said. “The kids and the coaches have bought in and have taken pride in the program and it’s rubbed off on the school. We had nobody going to our away games before and now they are.”
Running back Jordan Salima is a big reason for the excitement surrounding the program. He rushed for 203 yards on 20 carries against the Eagles.
“We had a good feeling about ourselves coming into this game,” Salima said, who tied a career-high with four touchdowns in a game. “Personally, we knew we could execute and do what we were supposed to do. The key has been the O-line and coaching. It shows on the field.”
It wasn’t easy for the team on the first drive, though. The Patriots had a fourth-and-five on its own side of the field and Webb decided to roll the dice and go for it. Quarterback Dean Clemons moved the chains with a 7-yard run. On the same possession, the team was faced with a fourth-and-nine, Salima picked it up with a 30-yard scamper.
“We feel pretty confident in our offense,” Webb said. “Sometimes I just get stubborn and say, ‘What the heck?’ The way our defense played in that first series, I didn’t feel it was all that risky. I wasn’t happy with the way we had been playing up to that point. And (going for it on fourth down) was to give our kids a feeling like, ‘Hey, you need to get your fanny going here.’”
“Our kids sometimes play better under pressure and I understood the value of scoring on that first drive.”
Salima later scored on a 4-yard run up the gut to put the team up 7-0. On the subsequent drive, Truman had great field position because of a poor Ruskin punt setting it up at the Eagle 30.
Four plays into the drive, Salima found a huge hole right in the middle of the defense and wasn’t touched until he got to the 1-yard line and he fell forward for a 10-yard score.
The home squad had a pair of hiccups in the in the second quarter via a Clemons fumble and interception. That didn’t stop it from taking a large halftime lead, however.
After Clemons atoned with a 25-yard run and Salima followed with runs of 27 and eight, Clemons scored on a keeper from one yard out to make it 21-0.
Even with 1:43 left in the half and Patriots being a notoriously run-heavy offense, they found a way to beat the clock. On a drive Salima broke off an 34-yard run, it temporarily stalled at the Eagle 13. Will Jenkins attempted a 30-yard field goal, which he missed, but Ruskin was called for roughing the kicker.
It was then fourth-and-goal from the 8, and Salima went into the wildcat formation and a Clemons block opened up the left edge as he dove into the end zone for the score with 20 seconds left in the half.
“Coach has been having me do this since my sophomore year,” Salima said of being in the wildcat. “I feel pretty comfortable with it.”
Added Webb: “Any way we can get him the ball is pretty good. The more touches he gets, the better team we are. Our offensive line isn’t the quickest, but Jordan is a great reader of blocks. He makes kids miss.”
Truman scored on its opening drive of the third quarter. Salima found a huge hole in the middle of the Ruskin defense, cut to his right to avoid would-be tacklers and took in for a score untouched for an insurmountable 35-0 advantage.
The Truman defense was equally as affective as the running game. The front four controlled the line of scrimmage, resulting in 11 tackles for loss. Ruskin managed just one first down, which came with under five minutes left in the third, against Truman’s varsity defense that held the Eagles to minus-16 yards rushing and 21 yards total in the first 33 minutes of the game. It wasn’t until the junior varsity players came on the field for the Patriots that Ruskin scored on a pair of passing touchdowns.
“We had very good practice this week,” Woosley said. “I have to give credit to Coach Webb and Coach (Cody) Carlson, our defensive line coach for making us this good.”
Webb’s challenge to the defense after a 35-32 win against St. Joseph Central last week may have had something to do with it, too.
“They manhandled our defensive line last week,” Webb said of Central. “It was frustrating and we put a little bit of the guilt on them. We said, ‘Go get them.’ (The defensive line) wasn’t quite as passive as they were last week.”