• John Macon Gillespie

COLUMN: Rams Return To Postseason Takes Them Back To The Delta

The Vardaman Rams are returning to the playoffs this season for the first time since 2012. The Rams finished the regular season 7-4 overall with a 5-2 in Region 1-1A behind a talented offense. Although the pieces came together this season for Vardaman behind play-makers like Trae Owen and Brandon Washington, the road to this point was not easy. In 2013, Larry Gann returned to Vardaman High School as the team's head football coach. Gann had coached the Rams from 1979–1985, including the 1981 season that saw Vardaman win their first district championship under a new postseason format in Mississippi. In 2013 and 2014, Gann's Vardaman Rams, a historic 1A powerhouse, were knocked to there knees to the tune of back-to-back winless seasons. Although the 2013 winless season is debatable due to a forfeit from TCPS who did not field a team that season, but the Rams did not win a game on the field of play. From 2013-2015, Vardaman went a combined 4-29 (or 5-29 if you count the forfeit) with all four of those wins coming in 2015. The 2016 season got off to a fast start for Vardaman as they defeated their 2A county-rival Bruce in Week 2 by a score of 31-27. That game marked the beginning of a five-game winning streak for the Rams, three of which included Vardaman scoring fifty or more points. The latter portion of the Rams' schedule was not as forgiving as the first as injuries began to pile up. Vardaman lost games to 2A Strayhorn and talented region opponents Smithville and West Lowndes before closing out the regular season with a win over Hamilton. This 2016 playoff appearance brings a familiar tune to the little town of Vardaman. Before this season, the Rams had made the playoffs 27 times since 1981 (the year Mississippi adopted a playoff system), including 22-straight appearances from 1991-2012. Vardaman enters the playoffs as a #3 Seed and will face Ray Brooks this Friday night in Benoit, Mississippi, a place that Ram fans are all too familiar with due to its painful postseason memories.

Vardaman traveled to Benoit in both 2007 and 2008 for playoff matches with the Ray Brooks Tigers. In 2007, the Vardaman fell to the eventual-State-Champion Tigers 46-22. In 2008, en route to a 12-1 season, Ray Brooks defeated the Rams 22-20 in a heartbreaking overtime contest. Ram fans are hoping for a different outcome in this year's trip to the delta. Regardless of how long the Rams survive in the postseason, the Town of Vardaman is ecstatic to be back in successful football times. It has been a long and difficult wait, but this little town is ready for the long trip to the Delta tonight.

**Photo by Sherry Williams.

#JohnMaconGillespie #Vardaman

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