As expected, Newton County Academy's Dillion Williams proved once again why he is one of the best backs in the MAIS.
Oak Hill gave up three big plays, including two to Williams Friday night as the Raiders dropped their season opener 18-7 in West Point.
"We got a long way to go," first year Raiders head coach Benjie Merchant said. "We got to be able to move the ball on offense better. It's a stepping stone. We knew it was a tough team coming in and they executed well. We just have to eliminate the big plays and tighten everything up."
Williams was the difference maker offensively with a pair of touchdowns in the first and second half as he rushed for 172 yards.
After the Raiders went three and out, Newton got on the board on their very first drive with a 30-yard scamper by Williams down the Oak Hill sideline with 8:06 left to play. Cooper Orman jumped the line of scrimmage for Oak Hill and blocked the ensuing point after attempt to keep the Raiders down by a touchdown.
The Raiders could not keep the drive going on their second possession and were forced to punt again.
But Oak Hill caught a break on the defensive side after Conner Baird stalled a 26 yard drive by Newton with an interception to give the Raiders another chance to tie the game. Back to-back drives in the second quarter led to zero points, but the Raiders knew if they were going to stay in this game, the defense would have to make a make play. They did just that.
With 2:33 to go in the first half, the Generals, starting from their own 29, opted for three consecutive running plays totaling 31 yards to get into Oak Hill territory. Williams, who was 0-for-2 in passing in that drive, was flushed out of the pocket on third down and heaved a desperation pass down the left sideline only to find Curt Huffman, who was wearing the wrong jersey and watched him run 70-yards back the other direction for the touchdown. Reid Posey's extra point gave the Raiders the 7-6 lead at the half.
"That was the first big play of the year for us," Merchant said after the interception for a score. "We could feel the momentum shift."
The two teams would trade possessions in the third until Williams would find the end zone. After his initial 87-yard punt return for a touchdown was called back because of holding, the Generals would start at their own 14 yard line. Five plays later and it was Williams again, this time with a 67-yard run that counted to give the visitors a 12-7 lead with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
Oak Hill, who had punted four times in the first three quarters were looking to get back into the ball game with a little under 10 minutes left to play in the game. Baird, who was 7-for-15 for 118 yards passing in the contest, started the drive with a 29-yard pass to Huffman to put the Raiders in Newton territory. Three plays later, Newton's Zack Skelton recovered a fumble at the line of scrimmage and ran it back for a 66-yard return and stretch the lead 18-7. Merchant said they need to score on offense to have a chance to win.
"We just have to be able to put drives together and go score, that's what killed us tonight," he said.
The Raiders finished with 200 yards of total offense in the game and did not score on any of their offensive drives. Baird led the team with 34 yards rushing, while Chance Livingston and Clay Henley led the receiving core with 44 and 41 yards respectively.
"We knew coming in we had a long year ahead of us," Merchant said. "We just have to get better from here on out. That's all we can do."
Oak Hill will have their first district contest next week against Winston, the first of back to-to back road games for the Raiders.View more articles in: