By PAUL BOGGS
OAK HILL – The Fairland Dragons, citing head coach Melvin Cunningham’s research, wanted to be at least plus-two in the big-play ratio on Friday night.
Simply put, they were more than just that.
The Dragons defined themselves by such terms as “pick-six”, “flea-flicker” and a “happy return”, scoring touchdowns via way of all three – en route to doubling up the Oak Hill Oaks 42-21 in a non-league football bout at Davis Stadium in Oak Hill.
Fairland’s triumph broke a 14-14 tie in the all-time series, as the Dragons – which defeated Tolsia (W. Va.) 34-12 in their opener – raised their record to 2-0.
Meanwhile, the new-look Oaks, after a 35-13 season-opening loss at Chesapeake, fell to 0-2.
The Dragons did on Friday night what they do best – burn opponents for big plays with their athleticism in open space and also with speed.
“That’s what we’re blessed with. That’s our identity,” said Cunningham. “We try to find different ways to use our athletes to their strengths. We have to do that each week.”
On Friday night, they scored on a short interception return for a touchdown, ran the old-fashioned flea-flicker for a score, and had a kickoff returned to the house for their final TD.
In addition, the Dragons’ defense did its part – stymieing the Oaks to only 59 first-half yards, along with back-to-back three-and-out series’ in building an early 14-0 advantage.
But, big plays were indeed the biggest difference.
“We preach this stat all the time, but 83-percent of the games are won by the teams that are at least plus-two in the big-play department,” said Cunningham. “We focus on making big plays, and tonight we were capable of doing so. They (Oaks) lined up the way we thought they would, and we took advantage. Our receivers did a good job attacking some things we thought we could.”
The backs didn’t do bad, either.
While Michael Stitt rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries, he made his most meaningful impact with a 15-yard interception return for a score, making it 14-0 with Emma Marshall’s second of six successful extra-point kicks.
That was with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the opening quarter, and immediately answered an Oak Hill interception of Fairland junior quarterback Max Ward at the Oaks’ 8-yard line.
Stitt later capped the Dragons’ scoring with a 68-yard kickoff return with 6:46 remaining, as the Oaks were forced to kick off from their own 20-yard line – following an offsides and a personal-foul penalty.
Oak Hill head coach Paul Carver commented as well about the Green’s good play-making ability.
“We just have to be able to stop those big plays,” he said. “We got them into some 3rd-and-longs, but we have to be prepared for big plays. Fairland is a very athletic team, they can pretty much do anything they want with athletes all over the place. We have to do a better job of getting those athletes down once they get out in space, and not give up so much over the top. They have good wide receivers, and they can run in three or four quarterbacks who can each throw the ball.”
One of those gunslingers was Ward, who started and confidently commanded Fairland’s offense, completing 11-of-18 passes for 163 yards – with five completions and 151 yards going to Gavin Hunt.
On the Dragons’ opening possession, Ward went deep to Hunt on a post pattern on 3rd-and-12, picking up 43 yards on the play from midfield.
Zander Schmidt then took the direct snap at QB, and ran around the left end for a four-yard touchdown run – and a 7-0 lead at the 7:07 mark.
The Dragons drove 65 yards in nine plays, consuming two minutes and 55 seconds off the first-quarter clock.
Schmidt and Hunt then hooked up on a flea-flicker play with a minute left in the second stanza, as Schmidt completed a 23-yard strike to Hunt for a 21-7 Fairland advantage.
That answered a short Oak Hill scoring drive – a nine-play, 36-yard march that ended with a nine-yard touchdown toss from Isaac Morgan to Alec Morgan.
Brock Harden hit the extra-point kick, slicing the Oaks’ deficit in half to 14-7.
It was as close as Oak Hill would get, though, as the Dragons then scored the next 21 points to stake their largest advantage at 35-7 with nine minutes to play.
Following Fairland’s late first-half score, the Dragons then forced a turnover on downs – when Schmidt sacked Morgan for a nine-yard loss to the Oaks’ 41 with four-and-a-half minutes left in the third.
“That was a huge play,” said Cunningham. “Zander Schmidt came off the edge and was able to make a big stop.”
On Fairland’s ensuing series, a Ward pass to Hunt picked up 13 yards and converted 4th-and-12 from the Oaks’ 42, as Stitt scored his rushing touchdown from 20 yards away, making it 28-7 at the 1:55 mark with Marshall’s fourth extra-point try.
“At that juncture, we had missed on a couple of other plays where we overthrew a guy. But when we got that stop, we knew we had to score right there, so we went for it on fourth-down,” said Cunningham. “At that point, we were trying to put the game away.”
And, in fact, you could sense it.
The Oaks then failed on a fake punt attempt at midfield, as Ward went deep to Hunt for 55 yards to the 7-yard-line on the second play following that.
“We have to know situations better and respond to those situations better. We have two fourth downs there, we have to convert those,” said Carver. “It’s little tiny things that add up.”
Hunt then helped his cause by taking the direct snap and scoring – making it 35-7 – as Oak Hill had two late rushing touchdowns, sandwiched around Stitt’s kickoff return.
Stitt also made four receptions for 28 yards, as Schmidt was 2-of-4 passing when Ward wasn’t under center.
The Dragons rushed for just 103 yards on 20 attempts, but threw for 179 and outgained the Oaks by 50 total yards (282-232).
Triston Diltz, the senior fullback and leading rusher for the Oaks, paced the hosts with 69 yards and a 10-yard scoring run on 16 attempts.
Jacob Turner tacked on the final Oak Hill touchdown, and Derrick Boggs booted the extra point with only 33 seconds remaining.
The Oaks’ reserve runners crafted a dozen-play, six-minute and six-second scoring drive, but by then it was too little and too late.
“We told our kids that they were going to move the ball, just the type of offense they run. But we did a pretty good job of tackling tonight,” said Cunningham. “In our conference, the OVC, you have to be good tacklers. You have to tackle well each week. We stress it every single day in some form or fashion.”
Speaking of the Ohio Valley Conference, the Dragons return to the road – and open OVC competition, next Friday night at Ironton.
The Fighting Tigers – the consensus preseason favorite for the conference championship – are also undefeated, having blanked Russell (Ky) 10-0.
Oak Hill hosts Rock Hill, which is also 0-2, on Friday night in another non-league bout.
* * *
Fairland 42, Oak Hill 21
Fairland 14 7 7 14 – 42
Oak Hill 0 7 0 14 – 21
F — Zander Schmidt, 4-yard run (Emma Marshall kick), 7:07, 1st (7-0 F)
F — Michael Stitt, 15-yard interception return (Emma Marshall kick), 2:32, 1st (14-0 F)
OH — Alec Morgan, 9-yard pass from Isaac Morgan (Brock Harden kick), 3:45, 2nd (14-7 F)
F — Gavin Hunt, 23-yard pass from Zander Schmidt (Emma Marshall kick), 1:00, 2nd (21-7 F)
F — Michael Stitt, 20-yard run (Emma Marshall kick), 1:55, 3rd (28-7 F)
F — Gavin Hunt, 13-yard run (Emma Marshall kick), 9:09, 4th (35-7 F)
OH — Triston Diltz, 10-yard run (Brock Harden kick), 6:57, 4th (35-14 F)
F — Michael Stitt, 68-yard kickoff return (Emma Marshall kick), 6:46, 4th (42-14 F)
OH — Jacob Turner, 2-yard run (Darrick Boggs kick), :33, 4th (42-21 F)
First downs 13 17
Plays from scrimmage 42 57
Rushes-yards 20-103 50-195
Passing yards 179 37
Total yards 282 232
Cmp-Att-Int. 13-22-1 3-7-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-20 9-74
Punts-average 2-27.5 2-40
RUSHING —Fairland: Michael Stitt 10-83 TD, J.D. Brumfield 5-13, Gavin Hunt 1-13 TD, Zander Schmidt 1-4 TD, Max Ward 2-(-4), Brennan West 1-(-6); Oak Hill: Triston Diltz 16-69 TD, Keaton Potter 10-46, Noah Donley 10-34, Nate Clutters 5-43, Jacob Turner 3-16 TD, Cameron Kerns 2-13, Isaac Morgan 2-(-3), Team 2-(-23)
PASSING — Fairland: Max Ward 11-18-1-163, Zander Schmidt 2-4-0-16 TD; Oak Hill: Darrick Boggs 1-1-0-24, Isaac Morgan 1-4-1-9 TD, Brock Harden 1-1-0-4, Keaton Potter 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING — Fairland: Gavin Hunt 5-151 TD, Michael Stitt 4-28, Brennan West 1-9, J.D. Brumfield 2-(-8), Jordan Williams 1-(-1); Oak Hill: Keaton Potter 1-24, Alec Morgan 1-9 TD, Braylon Howell 1-4
|September 6, 2019||7:00 pm||SEO||2019|