PDT Sports Editor
After concluding a 10-week regular season, the Oak Hill Oaks aren’t ready to lay down their shoulder pads just yet.
Oak Hill concluded the regular campaign with an 8-2 record, which was good enough to finish in seventh place in the Division VI, Region 21 standings. The Oaks will take on the Bishop Ready Silver Knights who finished the year with a 9-1 record while claiming the No. 2 seed.
The Oaks face an uphill battle against the Silver Knights who earlier in the season defeated the Washington Blue Lions 98-20.
“When you’re in the playoffs, if you expect your first-round game to be easy, then you have the wrong frame of mind,” Oak Hill coach Nathan Dugan said. “Last year, I felt we played an extremely talented Hillsdale team. This year, Ready is extraordinarily talented, has great depth at all of their positions and is senior-dominated.”
One year ago, the Oaks trailed 20-7 at halftime before eventually defeating the Hillsdale Falcons 29-26.
Dugan expects nothing less than an hard fought, physical affair but acknowledge the importance of his team’s mental approach heading into the matchup.
“It’s a week where the physical game is important, but the mental game is even more important … ,” Dugan said. “ … I don’t see a situation with our guys where we’re going to be overly nervous going into the game. I think our guys are going to focus in on what they need to do in order to put themselves in the best positions possible. I think they are going to enjoy the experience that surrounds it, and then go play four hard quarters and see where things pan out at the end of the fourth quarter. I think our guys are prepared enough and they understand the job that lies before them.”
Unlike Oak Hill who was tasked with replacing key starters at the beginning of the year, Bishop Ready has 14 seniors on their squad with many of those players occupying starting positions.
“They (Silver Knights) are senior-dominated,” Dugan said. “They start all but one senior on offense. On defense, they start four juniors and the rest are seniors. Their experience is going to come into play, and it’s something that we’re going to have to overcome. As our season has gone on, a lot of these sophomores and juniors have grown into juniors and seniors themselves. Hopefully, there won’t be that much of a disparity over the experience level once the game gets started on Friday night.”
Dugan acknowledged that the Silver Knights were impressive but said the key to formulating a gameplan for Bishop Ready is “not getting caught up in everything that they have.”
“You have to break them down from film like a normal week’s preparation,” Dugan said. “You look at their defensive and offensive strengths, and figure out what we can do to eliminate some of those strengths. You get to a point where you are watching films over and over and over, and you start to see things that jump out at you as possible ways to exploit what they do defensively and ways they can tip their hand to what they are doing offensively.”
Every week, coaches share the importance of controlling the line of scrimmage to their team’s desired outcome. If Oak Hill wants to advance to the second round of the playoffs, that statement will have to come to fruition.
“Ready is a 75-percent run team,” Dugan said. “We know that in the open field we’re going to have a difficult time catching their running backs. This is probably the fastest team we’ve ever played. We have to put ourselves in a position to make plays at the point of attack and slow them down that way …”
One of those fast running backs that the Oaks will have to contain is Akili Taylor. The 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound senior has rushed for 1,642 yards on 150 attempts while crossing the goal line 23 times. Akili has interest from several schools, including Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Ohio.
Controlling the line of scrimmage will not be an easy task for Oak Hill, as the offensive line will be the biggest that the Oaks have faced all season. Anchoring the offensive line will be Brady Taylor, a 6-foot-5 inch, 265-pound senior who verbally committed to Virginia Tech after an intense recruiting battle that featured offers from at least two dozen Football Bowl Subdivision schools. According to Rivals.com, Taylor is ranked as the 57th best offensive tackle in the country.
“They have good size and this is the tallest offensive line we’ve faced,” Dugan said.
The contest will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Bishop Ready High School, which is located on 707 Salisbury Rd. in Columbus Ohio.
Paul Boggs of The Jackson County Times-Journal contributed to this report.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.