Brock Netter, Staff Writer
OAK HILL — It didn’t require a field goal at the buzzer like last season, but it still came down to the final seconds.
Despite a furious second half rally by Minford, it was still Oak Hill who came out on top, thanks to an 11-yard score from Conor Dickens with 46 seconds left, which sealed a 27-21 victory over the Falcons on Friday.
The victory gives Oak Hill (2-2, 2-1 SOC II) three of the last four victories over the Falcons.
“I was just ready to make a play for my team at that moment,” Dickens said. “We got a push up front, I saw a little hole and we continued to push until I made it across the goal line. It was a complete team effort from the line to the backs who were also blocking.”
Minford (2-2, 1-2 SOC II) had revenge on its mind, but the offense was virtually non-existent in the first half.
The Falcons had four drives in the first half, two of which resulted in incomplete passes on fourth down, and two of which ended with a punt and an interception.
In total, the Falcons mustered just 84 yards of offense in the half.
“That Wheelersburg loss really lit in first in our hearts because we didn’t want to have that experience again,” Oak Hill lineman Ethan Sickles said. “Going through that, I think, drove us to the next level all week in practice. We conditioned hard, practiced even harder and the results speak for themselves.”
Meanwhile, the Oaks drove up and down the field with the greatest of ease and cracked the scoreboard on its opening drive as Darrick Boggs connected with Braylon Howell on a 23-yard touchdown pass.
The Oaks forced a turnover late in the second quarter as Dickens stripped the ball out of Minford’s hands and recovered.
A few plays later, Cameron Kerns found an opening and powered his way into the end zone from nine yards out for a 14-0 halftime score.
“We knew this game wasn’t going to be easy at all, despite us being ahead at halftime,” Sickles said. “It was all about just continuing to trust our coaches, the system and one another.”
Oak Hill still held firm control, but the tide turned when the Oaks fumbled and Minford recovered with a short field. The Falcon drive was capped by a two-yard score from Elijah Vogelsong that cut the lead down to 14-7.
The drama reached its peak in the final frame as Minford made a fourth down stop to regain possession. It capitalized on the momentum swing as Vogelsong connected with Matthew Risner on a 22-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.
The Oaks responded on the following drive as Kerns found the end zone for the second time from two yards out. But Minford answered right back when Vogelsong threw a 50-yard dime to Drew Skaggs that knotted the game at 21-21 with 7:48 left.
That’s when the Oaks slowed down their tempo and began melting the clock with short runs and third down conversions.
Between Dickens, Kerns, Brandon Beam and Brock Harden, the Oaks chewed up over seven minutes of clock before Dickens muscled his way into the end zone with 46 seconds left.
“We have a team of fighters, starting with the offensive line,” Dickens said. “They never get too down on themselves and we all do a good job of picking those guys up when assignments are missed. They shake it off and make the next play, which leads to runs like the final one for the win.”
Minford made a rally and managed to get down to the Oaks’ 19-yard line with 4.4 seconds left, but its last play of the game was an incomplete pass in the back of the end zone to seal the Oaks’ victory.
“We made a number of mistakes and tried to give them the game a couple times,” Oak Hill coach Paul Carver said. “That’s the first time all year we’ve consistently made those mistakes like holding, fumbling and things like that. We’ll clean it up moving forward, but this was a great team win.”
Oak Hill is back in action on Friday at home against West, before a showdown in two weeks with first-place Waverly, who defeated Wheelersburg 36-35 in overtime on Friday.
“Knowing that we have a chance to win a share of the SOC II is great, but it does us no good if we don’t focus on West this week,” Carver said. “I know those kids and that program well. They play incredibly hard and they’re tough. They can upset anybody on any week, so they have to be our focus for the week.”