The Billings Central coaches certainly knew, they were calling the plays.
The Belgrade coaches also knew, but were powerless.
The fans on both sides of the stadium also knew.
Even the people driving by the stadium probably had a good inkling of what was going to happen.
With the Rams trailing by four points and its offense on the field for only the second time in the second half, the decision was easy.
Give the ball to Holden Ryan.
Ryan carried the ball nine times during a 13-play, 89-yard drive, capping it off with a one-yard touchdown run with 29.9 seconds left to play to give Central a 27-21 win over the Panthers on Thursday night at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
It was the season opener for the Rams.
“It wasn’t me,” Ryan said. “It was the offensive line. The offensive line really stepped up on the last drive and I was just following behind them.”
Ryan scored three touchdowns – two rushing and one receiving – and accounted for 281 yards in total offense. He rushed for 195 yards on 24 carries and added two catches for another 86. Ryan averaged 10.1 yards every time he touched the ball.
Ryan also had a six-yard scoring run and caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Stanton.
“You definitely want to give him as many opportunities as you can,” Central head coach Jim Stanton said. “He really showed some toughness down the stretch. We put a lot on him during that last drive. That’s what we needed from him.
“Our energy level seemed higher on the last drive.”
The Rams offense only had the ball twice in the second half, once in the third quarter and the game-winning drive.
Quarterback Brayden Konkol accounted for all three of the Panthers’ touchdowns in the first half, with runs of 1, 5 and 3 yards to help Belgrade lead 21-19 at halftime.
“That kid is an outstanding athlete,” Ryan said. “He never stops running. He’s got the heart of a winner.”
Konkol finished with 101 yards rushing on 25 carries and passed for another 164 yards.
His final pass attempt of the game was intercepted by Ryan in the end zone.
“He has the ability to make plays,” added Stanton, the coach. “He’s tough to tackle. You think you have him and he breaks free to get a few more yards.”
The Rams defense came up with a big fumble recovery late in the third quarter as Konkol was trying to score from four yards out on fourth down. He was rocked by Jesse Byorth and Micah Holt-Seavy recovered the loose ball.
“That was absolutely huge,” Ryan said. “I don’t think anybody saw that coming … Jesse hit him so hard.”
The Rams piled up 266 yards rushing, while Michael Stanton passed for 117.
“This was a good measuring stick for our team,” Jim Stanton said. “We talk about this a lot, finding a way to win. And tonight, the kids found a way to win.”