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Sterling's defense continued to shine as Micah Campbell, 15, and Reece Sylvester, 14, were just some of the players that came up big in a tough 17-7 district loss to Beaumont United on Thursday night at Stallworth Stadium.

Second-quarter run helps United hold off Rangers

Sterling High School football intended to announce itself in Thursday’s District 21-6A opener Thursday night at Stallworth Stadium against an improved Beaumont United club.

The message was delivered early, but then the first few minutes of the second quarter put a major kink in the Rangers plans and the visiting Timberwolves would use speed and advantageous field position for a 17-7 win.

But not before the Rangers proved they can hang with one of the district’s better teams.

“I am loving how my team is coming together,” Sterling High head coach Robert Toomer said. “We made a statement to ourselves that we can play with anybody. We just have to find ways to not shoot ourselves in the foot, but made a step in the right direction, but I don’t want to get used to losing. It’s a progression.”

Sterling (1-3, 0-1) had two offensive possessions out of the gate that kept United’s defense on its heels and on the second one, the Rangers struck pay dirt.

Senior quarterback Jacob Landry squirted past the United (4-0) front seven and got to the house with a 13-yard run and a 7-0 lead for the hosts with 3:53 left in the first quarter.

Then came the pivotal first three minutes of the second 12 minutes.

United got its offense rolling late in the previous quarter and tied the game on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Zemiah Vaughn to Julius Stelly with 10:46 left in the first half.

Then came the big blow for Sterling as its top offensive threat, senior EJ Hawkins got twisted up on a running play and had to leave the contest in visible pain and favoring his right leg. He would not return.

“It hurts when you lose someone like EJ,” Toomer said. “We had to find ways to make plays. The offense kept grinding, but we have to fix some things. His loss, from an emotional standpoint, effected the seniors since they’ve been together for a long period of time. They realized EJ was going to be fine, but this is one of those times, they didn’t know if it was a major injury and they reacted to it. They are a family.”

Sensing a deflated Rangers team, United upped the attack and scored on a 30-yard touchdown run by Wright and a 28-yard field goal to lead 17-7 at the half.

United’s big momentum shift was aided by the last three Sterling possessions starting inside its 15-yard line.

Sterling finished the first half with only 41 yards of total offense.

The Rangers defense held up strong in the second half and offense had two possessions on the Timberwolves side of the field but could not finish.

“Hats off to Beaumont United, they have come a long way and you can see that,” Toomer said. “It all goes back to what we do, and we gave ourselves a shot to win, we just couldn’t capitalize on the plays we should have. Our offense held their d-line pretty good. I just asked them to match their physicality and our team didn’t back down. We stood in there and fought.”

Trinity Oliver had the offensive highlight of the game for the Rangers as he fought off a United defensive back for a 43-yard completion. Linebacker Kevin Kirkland added an interception to set up one of Sterling’s scoring threats.

“Trinity’s catch is Landry trusting his receivers,” Toomer said. “We have to win some of those 50-50 balls and that’s a big morale booster.”

Enough that the players learn more each day how much each of them means to one another.

“We played our hearts out, I am not going to lie I love them, they love me,” senior Sterling cornerback Micah Campbell said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team than this. We knew EJ was going to be out, but we knew people would step in and show out.

“We tried to bounce back and do our best.”

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