By Bryan Davis
The 2010 season came down to Friday night for the Oak Hill Academy Raiders (3-8; 1-2). Coming into the game against Winston (6-4; 3-0), the Raiders were evened up in district play, needing to win by seven points to get into the playoffs.
A great effort against a very physical Patriot club did not transpire into a victory for the Raiders, however, as Winston took the game and the district in a 41-7 victory.
â€śThey just sort of blew us up defensively,â€ť said Oak Hill head coach Leroy Gregg. â€śThey were quicker than us, and stronger than us.â€ť
Throughout the game, Winstonâ€™s play seemed undisciplined, committing over 100 yards in penalties, including 75 in the first half alone. The offense, however, was able to make up for its own mistakes almost every time.
Thirty-five of those penalty yards came on Winstonâ€™s first possession of the game, shortly after the opening kickoff. The Patriots seemed to thrive in those situations. Faced with a first an 35 in the first drive, Tyler Sullivan would eventually connect with Austin Flake on third down, for a 21-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead, after the PAT by Rob Moffitt.
The Raiders struggled the entire first half on offense. In total, they had 14 yards on the offensive side of the ball, two rushing and 12 yards passing.
Oak Hill senior running back Doss Miller just could not find a hole against the big and fast Winston defense. Bo Sanford, Phillip Liu and Chance Livingston had similar luck when they tried to plow through the middle of the Wisnton defense.
After going three and out on their first drive, penalty yards also forced Winston to give up the ball on fourth down.
On Oak Hillâ€™s second drive, quarterback Jeb Stevens connected with Miller for his longest pass of the half, a 10-yard throw that resulted in a team first down. The Raiders would eventually turn the ball over on downs, however, giving the ball back to Winston as the clock in the first quarter ticked down to zero.
Just 16 seconds into the second quarter, Sullivan connected with receiver Zach Taylor for a 30-yard touchdown pass that put the Patriots up 14-0 after the PAT.
Things calmed down for both teams over the next six minutes. The Raiders and the Patriots would both punt on their next drives.
Oak Hill, however, made a costly mistake on their second possession of the quarter, as Stevens fumbled the ball into the Patriotsâ€™ hands with about five minutes to go in the half.
Sullivan went right back to work, eventually scoring himself on a two-yard touchdown rush to make it 20-0, with 4:37 to go in the half.
After the Raiders punted the ball away on their next try, Winston tacked on a fourth touchdown with 19 seconds to go in the half. After a two-point conversion, the Raiders found themselves in a 28-0 deficit going into the break.
The second half started out much better for the Raiders. Though they would punt on the first drive, it was a good possession, as they drove for eight plays and two first downs.
When Winston got the ball back, Sullivan made his first and biggest mistake of the night, throwing the ball into the hands of Oak Hill defender Rusty Tate, who intercepted the ball, with 7:10 to go in the third.
This drive did not go as well as the first, as Stevens was forced to throw on fourth down, getting intercepted himself. Three plays later, the Patriots were back in the end zone for a 35-0 lead.
Winston kicked the ball back off to the Raiders, but the drive lasted on three plays before Oak Hill was punting back to the Patriots. This time, however, Winston made the Raiders pay, as Tyler Golson returned the kick all the way back for a touchdown and a 41-0 lead, with 58 seconds to go in the third.
This would be the final time Winston would score. Oak Hillâ€™s next possession, which started in the final seconds of the third, trickled into the fourth, but it fizzled out after nine plays, including a fourth down conversion.
The Raider running game had been kept at bay for most of the game thus far.
â€śThey did a good job taking Doss (Miller) out of the ball game,â€ť Gregg said. â€śThey knew in order to win, that was going to be the key to the game.â€ť
When Oak Hill got the ball back with 7:13 to go in the game, the Raiders needed only one carry to get on the board one last time in 2010. Sanford took the ball from 70 yards out, all the way to the end zone for a big touchdown score that made it 41-7, with 4:37 to go in the game.
For the next four minutes, the clock ticked away on the game and on the Raidersâ€™ season.
Winston walked away with the win and the district title, going undefeated in conference play.