By Bryan Davis
It’s all come down to this week for the Oak Hill Academy Raiders (3-7; 1-1). The team that started the season off with four straight losses found itself back in the playoff hunt after game six, only to suffer a devastating loss to Manchester three weeks ago.
With one game left to go, this is as important as they come. The Raiders will be facing district rivals Winston Academy (5-4; 2-0).
It’s true the Patriots have had a better time of it, win wise in 2010, but the district title has not been sown up. If the Raiders win Friday night’s game by 15 points, they are district champions. They have to win by seven, however, to make it into the playoffs.
To do that, they’ll have to face a veteran team, with a lot of experience.
“They’re deeply talented,” said Oak Hill head coach Leroy Gregg. “They may be physically the most talented team we’ve seen so far.”
Gregg says that their roster has a lot of return players from 2009. The Raiders come into the game with three seniors, about half a dozen juniors and a host of sophomores.
The Raiders will be spending this week putting last week’s non-district 35-7 loss to Marshall behind them.
“It’s all preparation,” Gregg said. “We started putting in the offensive and defensive game plan yesterday and got to rep some. It’s never as much as you want, but we got some reps in on both sides of the ball.”
Gregg says that the score of last Friday night’s game did not reflect the way the defense played.
“Our defense really played a whole lot better than our score indicated,” Gregg said. “We had 36 offensive plays the first half, and for a high school football game, that’s a lot. We didn’t put a point on the board in the first half.”
The Raiders had the ball quite a bit in the first two quarters, but they were unable to capitalize once inside the red zone.
“We possessed the ball a lot and moved it,” Gregg said. “We would get down to the 20 or 25 yard line, and we would make a mistake.”
Dealing with a lack of depth all season, couple with a young offense, the Raiders have emerged from the dead twice before in 2010.
Their 0-4 start was capped off by a 61-6 loss to Leake Academy. They responded the following week with a 46-12 win over Hebron. That propelled the Raiders into their first district game, which they won against Carroll 46-41.
That momentum destroyed two weeks later, as they fell 32-20 to Manchester. The Raiders have since come back and defeated Kirk for a third win, and now they will try to revive themselves one last time in an attempt to get into the playoffs, perhaps with a district title.
“We don’t have a lot of margin for error with our offense,” Gregg said. “We have to make productive us of every down. We struggled to overcome blown assignments.”
The Raiders are going to have to score like they did in the Hebron and Carroll games, and they are going to have to play defense like they did against Kirk two weeks ago.
“If we’re not consistent with out tackling, it will be a long night for us,” Gregg said.
Kickoff will be at Winston, at 7 p.m.