In the world of high school football, there is no rest for the weary.
For Oak Hill Academy, that axiom has proven true for two straight weeks to open the season.
On Friday night, Oak Hill, with 18 varsity players, stood toe-to-toe with Class AAA power Pillow for more than two quarters, only to see the Mustangs – with their roster of 55 – eventually pull away in a 31-6 win.
While the roster numbers don’t lie, Oak Hill head coach Leroy Gregg refused to offer those facts as an excuse.
“One thing you learn in football is that it doesn’t matter if you play a good team or a great team, if you make enough mistakes, you’ll get beat,” Gregg said. “Tonight, we played a great team, but I think when we look at the film, we’ll see that we had our chances, we just let some plays slip away from us.”
Pillow, ranked No. 3 in the AP’s MAIS Class AAA poll, struggled with Oak Hill early Friday night, as the Raiders forced turnovers in two of Pillow’s first three possessions.
Defensive lineman Reid Posey had a hand in both, intercepting a pass from Pillow QB Landon Taylor just three minutes into the game and forcing a Taylor fumble two drives later. Oak Hill’s Chance Livingston recovered the fumble.
Eventually, though, Pillow’s physical offensive line began to wear on the Raiders, as the Mustang ground game began to roll early in the second quarter.
Tailback Myers Falls rushed for 93 of his game-high 149 yards in the first half, and the Mustangs got on the board midway through the first quarter with a two-yard plunge by fullback Luke Kimmel. Kicker Cayson Cox added the PAT to give Pillow a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
That lead would stand until the end of the first half, when the visiting Mustangs broke through for a crucial score late in in the second quarter when Taylor sprinted in from 15 yards out to give the Mustangs a 14-0 halftime lead.
“That really hurt us,” said Gregg. “We were right there with them, but when you give a good team that little boost going into halftime, it’s a real backbreaker.”
Pillow’s defense contained Oak Hill’s ground game in the first half, allowing just 36 total yards from the Raiders.
The Mustangs began to pull away early in the second half, as defensive back Anthony Ola scored on a 42-yard interception return just two minutes into the third quarter to give Pillow a 21-0 lead.
That lead would eventually grow to 31-0 behind a Falls touchdown and a 34-yard field goal by Cox.
Oak Hill began to mount an offense in the fourth as, tailback Doss Miller capped a 4-play, 65-yard drive with a 50-yard scoring run. When the two-point attempt failed, Oak Hill trailed 31-6 with eight minutes remaining.
On the night, Oak Hill managed 156 total yards, with 115 of that on the ground. Miller rushed 10 times for 73 yards, and Bo Sanford six times for 57.
After starting the season with back-to-back AAA teams, Oak Hill will return to its own classification with a visit to Class AA Indianola next week.
“We’ve played two of the better teams in the state to start out, and we will soon play two of the better Class AA teams in the state,” Gregg said, “but it will be nice to come down a class in the next few weeks.”