By DAVID CAMPBELL
Chris Ramirez was the central player in the most pivotal play of Bryan's 28-20 victory over Cypress Falls on Friday. The senior defensive end picked up a fumble by Golden Eagles' quarterback Kolby Gray and returned it 25 yards to set up the clinching touchdown for the Vikings.
"He started coming out to the left side, and I think it was Curtis [Cook] and Jerry [Tennell] who hit him," Ramirez said. "I didn't know it was a fumble until I saw Kolby Gray come out of the pile and nothing was in his hands. I looked to the right and saw the ball, so I just picked it up and ran."
His Viking teammates teased him all the way into the locker room.
"They just talked about me because I was slow," Ramirez said, smiling. "They said it should've been at touchdown, but I'm not that fast, so they were talking about me, saying it should have been a touchdown."
Ramirez said that's the nature of the guys in the Vikings' locker room.
"They were just having a good time," said the 6-foot, 190-pounder. "They congratulated me. We just have fun with what we're doing."
He has given them other reasons to talk. A big hitter who started as a junior, Ramirez has made his share of big plays.
Ramirez also is one of the most emotional players on the Vikings' defense.
"He's very, very competitive and emotional," assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Dwight Pattrick said. "That's one of the things we have to get on to him about, because sometimes he gets out of control. We have to teach him to control himself, so he doesn't hurt himself or the team. He's overcoming that."
Indeed, Ramirez says he's learning that a quieter calm on the field can lead to bigger celebrations
"When I don't do things for awhile, I get mad, and when I get mad, I don't play so good," Ramirez said. "When I calm down, that's when I pick things up."
It's hard to tell Ramirez is playing with less emotion, because of his hard charges on the pass rush. It's something he rarely got a chance to do against Cy-Falls because of pass-coverage responsibilities against the spread offense.
"It's a hard position because you've got to be fast and strong," said Ramirez, who assisted on six tackles in the opener. "If the play goes outside, it's your fault. You can't blame it on anybody else. You're out there by yourself with some fast guy, and you can get embarrassed."
Needless to say, Ramirez would rather face a straight-up challenge than the spread.
"I would like to play a team that would try to run us over, because we've got a good D-line and good linebackers, and it's hard to run on us," said Ramirez, a veteran defender who like to force the offense out of its comfort zone. "If that's their game, running, then they've got to go to passing."
That doesn't mean Ramirez can't handle multiple responsibilities. The Vikings' emotional leader also leads with his football smarts.
"You can make adjustments with him," Pattrick said. "He's a smart ball player who understands the adjustments you make. Plus, he's really competitive and wants to win so badly. That's not a bad thing to have."
The Merrill Green Stadium dedication and the season opener might have added some more pressure.
"We were pretty excited," admitted Ramirez, who said the team will have to refocus quickly for a Thursday game at Leander. "It's kind of hard because we lose a day, but we should be ready. You don't have as many practices, so you can't be sluggish and slow. You have to be ready to practice and learn."
Ramirez has been playing football since seventh grade, when he began watching the Vikings at Merrill Green Stadium.
"I came to a lot of games in middle school," Ramirez said. "I always wanted to play."
Play being the operative word. Ramirez doesn't see football as work. That's why there's so much good-natured teasing. He's just playing a game with friends.
"It's just going out and having fun with a lot of people you know," Ramirez said. "I've known a lot of these people since sixth grade. It's just fun playing."
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!