Ahead of Friday night’s game between East and Oak Hill, both teams knew they could expect a physical affair.
Those expectations become a reality on the field when the Tartans and the Oaks met, with Oak Hill scrapping its way to a 36-12 victory.
The Oaks, led by five rushing touchdowns from three different players, dominated on the line of scrimmage to get the win.
“They out physical-ed us,” East head coach James Gifford said. “I thought we adapted to it, and started to play just as physical as them, but by then they had already kind of set the tone.”
East had a chance to set the tone early, after Oak Hill fumbled on the first possession of the game. Mackie Kingery pounced on the ball as soon as it hit the ground for the Tartans, and East had a prime scoring opportunity.
However, the Tartans were unable to take advantage, which became a recurring theme for East. The Oaks fumbled three times in the game, and the Tartans were unable to score following all three turnovers.
On this drive, East moved backwards on all three plays, and the Tartans were forced to punt. Oak Hill took over in prime field position at their own 48, set to take a second shot at the East defense.
The Tartans’ defense rose to the challenge and made a third down stop, but a personal foul penalty against East gave the Oaks a free first down. From there, Oak Hill capitalized on a 12 yard touchdown run from Walker Smith on a 3rd down and 5.
As the extra point sailed through, the Oaks staked a claim to a 7-0 lead with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
Both teams remained stagnant on their next few possessions. On the fourth possession of the game for the Tartans, East was able to move the ball down the field a bit on a Brady Douthat scramble.
Douthat would later be intercepted on the drive by Talyn McCain, and unlike their counterparts, Oak Hill would capitalize on the turnover.
On the first play following the interception, Zach Fisher scored from 35 yards out and the Oaks nailed the extra point to grab a 14-0 edge with 5:37 remaining in the second quarter.
Trailing by two scores, the Tartans didn’t panic. Instead, Douthat made up for his pick on the prior possession, driving his East squad down the field on several nice passes.
Behind the arm of Douthat, the Tartans found themselves in the red zone. Douthat then found his favorite target, J.D. Hatcher, from 20 yards out for his 10th touchdown catch of the season to cut the lead to a 14-6 margin with 4:39 before halftime.
A huge swing in the game took place on the next possession for the Oaks, or so it seemed. Once more, Oak Hill coughed up the football and the Tartans took over.
After the turnover, East tried to piece together a drive to knot things up at 14. It looked like the Tartans might tie things up, especially after East got a first down on a pass interference call against the Oaks.
With the momentum in hand, the Tartans were unable to even things up. A sack on 3rd and 14 from Oak Hill’s Bayley Clutters forced East to punt, and put a halt to the scoring chance for the Tartans.
At halftime, the Oaks had a 14-6 lead.
Out of the break, East had a chance once again to tie things up as the Tartans took the ball to begin the second half. East picked up several first downs, but wound up giving the ball back to Oak Hill after a turnover on downs.
Penalties were a plague for both teams throughout the contest, and the yellow flags cast a black cloud over the heads of the Tartans on the Oaks next drive.
As Oak Hill marched down the field, they were aided by a miscue from East. A horse collar tackle moved the ball to the East 21 yard line, and Clutters made the most of the error on behalf of the Tartans with a 21 yard touchdown run the next play.
There was 8:42 left in the third quarter, and the Oaks now had a 21-6 advantage.
East gave the ball back to Oak Hill relatively quickly once again, and the Oaks were ready to pounce.
“Any time you play against a team like Oak Hill that’s that physical and you’re playing from behind, it’s not an easy chore,” Gifford said.
Facing a 3rd down and 6, the Oaks were given another gift from the Tartans when East jumped offside. After converting the first down, several players from both schools got tangled up and things got heated in the midst of the action.
Once the referees were able to sort everything out, Chandler Carver was ejected from the game for his personal foul penalty.
“That’s a reflection of me,” Gifford said. “Two games in a row, we’ve had players get kicked out, and that’s on me.”
Still very much alive in the game, it looked as though East had a chance to get off the field when Oak Hill was faced with a 2nd down and 24. However, Fisher had other ideas for the Oaks, and bounced a run to the right outside and all the way down to the East 20 yard line.
One play later, Clutters powered his way into the end zone, breaking several tackles en route to a 20 yard score.
There was 3:10 left in the third quarter, and Oak Hill now had a 28-6 lead.
After a turnover on downs on the next possession for the Tartans, the Oaks added to their lead. Oak Hill was benefited from another penalty against East, this time on 4th down when the Tartans were set to get the ball back.
The Oaks continued to enjoy the charity of the East misfortunes, and Clutters made his way in for his third touchdown score of the second half. The two point conversion made the score 36-6 in favor of Oak Hill with 8:46 left in the game.
East was able to score their second touchdown of the game when Douthat found Kingery for a 54 yard touchdown strike. The two point conversion failed for the Tartans, but East had some life and hope for a miracle.
The Tartans couldn’t grab an onside kick attempt, but Justin Kritzwiser did grab an Oak Hill fumble several plays later. Unfortunately for East, though, Douthat threw an intercepton to Colin Hughes following that fumble recovery, and the game was wrapped up shortly thereafter with a final score of 36-12.
After the game, Gifford remained optimistic about what his team still has in store for 2017.
“Oak Hill did what they had to do and they beat us,” Gifford said. “But, you know what? The sun will come up in the morning, we’ll get ready for Symmes Valley, we’ll go 8-2 hopefully and we’ll make the playoffs.”
Once more, the Tartans will be faced with adversity, fighting the injury bug against the Vikings next week and coping with the loss of Carver, who will be suspended after the ejection tonight.
“It seems like adversity is our word this year, but that’s alright,” Gifford said. “We’ve got 77 boys in our entire school, and we’ve got 40 kids out there fighting like crazy against [an Oak Hill] team that’s got more boys out there playing in the band than we’ve got in the entire school.”
Don’t get it twisted, though. The East head coach isn’t making any excuses.
“Regardless of that, it takes 11 on 11 and their 11 beat our 11,” Gifford said. “We’ll bounce back, we’ll be alright.”
The Tartans (6-2, 3-1) will try and bounce back next Friday at Symmes Valley (6-2, 3-1). Oak Hill (6-2, 4-0) will hit the road to take on Eastern Pike (4-4, 3-2).
Oak Hill: Walker Smith 12 yd run (XP good) 7-0
Oak Hill: Zach Fisher 35 yd run (XP good) 14-0
East: J.D. Hatcher 20 yd rec from Brady Douthat (XP missed) 14-6
Oak Hill: Bayley Clutters 21 yd run (XP good) 21-6
Oak Hill: Bayley Clutters 20 yd run (XP good) 28-6
Oak Hill: Bayley Clutters 14 yd run (2 pt conversion good on Smith run) 36-6
East: Mackie Kingery 54 yd rec from Brady Douthat (2 pt conversion failed) 36-12
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT