By Bryan Davis
Daily Times Leader
The Oak Hill Academy Raiders (1-0) put on a display of good old fashioned football fundamentals on Friday night.
Hitting harder and running better than ever, the Raider defense and special teams kept the Newton County Academy Generals penned back for most of the night in a 13-6 week-one win over NCA.
“This team deserves it,” Merchant said. “They have worked hard everyday in practice.”
Oak Hill set the tone early for the game, with Drake Riley taking a first-quarter handoff from the quarterback at the 15 yard line. Riley took the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown, which would make it 7-0 after the two-point conversion was made.
Scoring came at a premium for both teams for the rest of the night. In fact, all of the scoring came in the first half. The final two quarters made for a masterful show of power for the defenses.
The Raiders only got burned one time during the 48 minutes of football. That was a 90 yard touchdown pass for Newton that made the score 7-6.
In the second quarter, Drake Riley would recover a fumble on defense, which would set up the second and final score of the night for Oak Hill.
With 3:10 remaining in the first half, Conner Baird connected with Curt Huffman in the end zone for a 20 yard touchdown pass to make it 13-6.
Huffman was not finished with the Generals in the half, however. NCA was trying to put up a quick score before the half itself, when Huffman went to the air inside the end zone and snagged an interception for the Raiders to keep the score 13-6 at the buzzer.
There was nothing doing for either team in the third quarter. Both defenses were at the top of their game, holding each other out of enemy territory.
It would be the Raider defense in the fourth that would eventually mount two important stops on turnovers.
The first one came with six minutes on the clock. The Generals were driving down the field when the ball was stripped. Drake Riley was there to recover the fumble.
Oak Hill had to punt away on that drive, but Paxton Trull did what he had done all night. Trull legged another powerful punt deep into General country, and the rest of the special teams made sure there was no run back.
“Paxton did a great job kicking for us tonight,” Merchant said. “That’s why we have him in there. The coverage was great on special teams.”
On that drive it was Blake Henley, on a pass by NCA, who went to the air to bring down a second interception for the Oak Hill defense on the night.
“The two picks were huge,” Merchant said. “That second pick sealed the deal for us.”
That was the nail in the coffin for NCA. Oak Hill ran down the clock to the first team victory since 2010, and the Raiders gave their coach his first win ever.
The Raiders will play host to Winston next Friday night at 7 p.m.