ELIZABETH — Zane Rankin tossed two early interceptions and came off the field for a play which resulted in another Lamar turnover.
Because making things too easy to start the year just isn’t as fun. Ranking and Lamar overcame those early miscues and justified their place in the top five of the Class 2A football rankings by beating No. 8 Elizabeth 41-20 on Friday.
The early problems? Rankin wasn’t sure if he should chalk them up to nerves, but after leading two scoring drives before connecting with Blake Buxton on a 51-yard touchdown pass, he assured himself and his teammates that they can get the job done when it counts the most.
“I just had to put it behind me,” Rankin said. “I knew I messed up. It was out first game and I played like it.”
Rankin led Lamar (1-0 overall) down the field on the first drive of the game, mixing in runs to Damian Ramos and Jesus Reyes. He added some shifty runs and completed passes when they were needed.
But the promising start was brought to a sudden halt as Rankin was picked in the end zone by Joseph Saunders. Elizabeth went three-and-out on their first drive putting the ball back in Rankins hands.
Rankin’s second interception of the night came a few plays later as Jace Perez grabbed an overthrown ball a battled his way inside the Lamar 10-yard line.
Broden Yocom pinched the ball into the end zone to give the Cardinals (0-1) an early 7-0 lead.
That’s when Lamar got its offense in rhythm. The team drove down to the one-yard line before Reyes scored. A missed extra point kept the Cardinals in the lead, but not for long.
On the next Lamar series, Ramos broke for 86 yards on the first play to put Lamar in the lead. They never looked back.
“It brings a lot of confidence to the team when we’re all scoring and all stepping up,” Ramos said.
Rankin connected with Buxton on the long touchdown pass with just 26 seconds left in the half to firmly put Elizabeth on its heels.
“That’s what makes this team great,” Rankin said. “We can battle through adversity and push through.”
Rankin more than made up for his early mistakes by picking off two passes from Elizabeth quarterback Nicholas Spidel before adding a 25-yard touchdown run to put Lamar up 27-7 midway through the third quarter.
A quarterback change provided Elizabeth with a spark as Jason Weber got the team into striking distance before running the ball in from a couple yards out, cutting the Lamar lead to 27-13.
“We like his speed and his competitiveness,” Elizabeth coach Michael Zoesch said. “He can run around and make some things happen and that’s what he did for us.”
Weber got the Cardinals deep in Lamar territory at the start of the fourth, but Ramos picked off a 3rd down pass and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. Rankin added a punt return for a touchdown to cap Lamar’s impressive opening game.
“This is the first time we’ve won our first game with this group of seniors,” Lamar coach Jason Tice said. “It’s nice to get off to a good start.”