The Oak Hall Eagles soared to a big first-half lead and used key defensive stops in the final quarter to hold on for an 18-12 win over Harvest Community Thursday.
Oak Hall (4-1) got back on a winning track after dropping its lone game to Eagles View (Jacksonville) on Sept. 24.
The Eagles flew out to a lead when quarterback Dakota Brower found Dylan Provencher for a score with 5:03 in the opening quarter. Carter Coleman ran in the 2-point conversion to go up 8-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Oak Hall pinned Harvest Community back on its 7-yard line and, on the Warriors’ next play, Oak Hall’s James Parker dropped Harvest’s quarterback in the end zone for a safety and a 10-0 lead.
The Eagles would tack on another touchdown when Parker plowed inside for a 3-yard run with 7:20 left in the half after he rushed 26 yards the play before. Bower passed to Provencher for the 2-point conversion as Oak Hall was clicking on all cylinders going up 18-0.
With the Eagles defense applying non-stop pressure on the Warriors quarterback and shutting down Harvest’s offense, it looked like Oak Hall was primed to blow the contest out of the water, but with 6:01 left in the first half and pinned back on its 17-yard line, a blown Oak Hall coverage allowed a Harvest receiver to get wide open and race 83 yards for a score to get within 18-6.
“We were moving the ball well at times,” said Oak Hall coach R.J. Fuhr. “Our bread and butter is on the ground, especially with Georgi El-semarani, our starting quarterback. This was his first game back in a while and he got re-injured (in the first half), and that hurts. But Dakota, he’s a freshman and he gutted it out. He’s going to be our quarterback of the future.”
The third quarter was a defensive battle as the Warriors shut down Oak Hall’s running game that had been effective in the first half. And the relentless pressure the Eagles put on Harvest’s quarterback slowed down.
“We were getting really good (defensive) pressure on them in the first half and we just got tired and weren’t getting that pressure,” said Fuhr.
Oak Hall tried to take advantage of Harvest’s new defensive scheme in the second half by switching to the pass, but protection constantly broke down and kept Brower scrambling.
“We were trying to mix it up a little bit, we were trying to soften them up a little bit,” Fuhr said. “They were loading the box. They were putting nine or 10 in the box, so we thought maybe we could try and spread them out a little bit, but credit them. They came after us hard and we’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to get better up front.”
With both teams stalemated, Harvest picked up the pace in the final quarter. With the ball at its 20-yard line, the Warriors hit on three pass plays of 27 and 26 yards and ended the drive with a 27-yard pass for a touchdown with 7:07 left. A failed 2-pt conversion left the score at 18-12.
Oak Hall then went three-and-out and was forced to punt on its next drive and Harvest, taking over at the Eagles’ 48-yard line, started marching and had a 2nd-and-3 on the Oak Hall 14, but the next pass was nearly intercepted in the end zone, then Eagles cornerback Josh Raymond tackled a Harvest wide receiver for a 3-yard loss and, on 4th-and 6, the Warriors threw an incomplete pass.
Parker ran for eight yards and Provencher sealed the win with a 2-yard run for a first down as Oak Hall ran out the clock.
As the season winds down, Oak Hall hopes that they can get some players back in its final two regular-season games.
“We aren’t very healthy right now,” Fuhr said, adding three two-way starters are out—including one for the season with a broken femur—and the Eagles had to play an 8th grader at center against Harvest.
Oak Hall travels to Jacksonville next Friday to take on Cedar Creek Christian at 7 p.m.