The Brave and Rams went into the game tied with Edgewood for first place in the SWOC after Ross edged Northwest and Talawanda surprised defending-champion Harrison in conference openers on Sept. 4.
What was difficult to determine was which was more impressive – the performance of Ross’s offense or defense. Talawanda allowed a combined 13 points while winning its first two games of the season, but Ross jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead. Meanwhile, the Rams' defense pitched a shutout after allowing a combined 77 points in its first two games.
Commins had no problem making a choice.
“Defense, by far,” he said. “We only had one special teams goof when we kicked the ball to Revalee. We’ve spent the first two weeks trying to put the pieces together.”
Talawanda was widely considered to be the favorite going into the game, especially after beating Harrison for the first time in the 2000s.
“The coaches kept telling us to keep grinding – that we were better,” Fraasman said.
The Rams scored two of their three first-half touchdowns after their defense came up with fourth-down stops. Ross stopped Talawanda’s drive on the game’s first possession on fourth-and-one on the Rams 7-yard line, and the Rams put together an eight-play drive capped by Fraasman’s 31-yard run with 3:38 left in the first quarter.
Ross didn’t face one third down on its opening drive.
“Everybody was hyping them up, and we felt like we had to come out and score quickly,” Fraasman said.
Fraasman helped make it 14-0 with 7:06 left in the second quarter on a 71-yard burst capped by his open-field stiff-arm of the last would-be Brave tackler.
After coming up with a stop of Talawanda on fourth-and-one at the Ross 40, Ross needed just five plays, not including two Brave penalties, to make it 21-0 on Gifford’s one-yard plunge and Brandon Vadis’s third conversion kick with 1:09 left before halftime.
The Rams received the second-half kickoff and needed just two plays to go 60 yards. Gifford ran through several defenders for 34 yards before sophomore Jaye Warren broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run just 33 seconds into the second half.
“They didn’t do anything different,” Talawanda coach Larry Cox said. “We had the opportunity to do some things, but we were our own worst enemy. They were more physical than us, offensively.”
Gifford’s second touchdown run, on a 19-yard carry with 6:23 left in the third quarter, led to a running clock for the rest of the game.
Talawanda’s second trip inside the 10-yard line ended with Ross junior defensive lineman Jude Hess recovering a fumble with 5:13 left in the game.