Note: This recap appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 7 newspaper on Page B1.
BYESVILLE — On a cold night, a long way from home, and most importantly a main man down, the Oak Hill Oaks quickly found themselves overmatched against host Meadowbrook.
Simply put, the Colts ran — and passed — all over Oak Hill on Saturday night, as Meadowbrook manhandled the Oaks 62-13 in a Division V Region 19 quarterfinal football playoff game inside a chilly Eugene Capers Field.
It was the first-ever meeting between the two schools, but marked Meadowbrook’s first-ever playoff victory in three tries, including last season.
Speaking of last season (35-0 loss at Johnstown-Monroe), and throw in their previous playoff appearance before that five years ago (48-6 loss at Columbus Ready), the Oaks have now lost their last three regional quarterfinals.
But Saturday night’s was clearly the worst in terms of not only margin of victory (49 points), but also in nature of simply being overwhelmed.
“Meadowbrook is just a dynamic team. It’s tough when you go up against somebody in the first round (of the playoffs) like this. Our team fought all year to get to this spot, and when you walk away with this as a reflection back on the year, that doesn’t do justice to what this group of kids did for us as a program,” said Oak Hill head coach Nathan Dugan.
The Colts amassed the game’s first 54 points through the first 27 minutes and 45 seconds, leading 46-0 at halftime and even putting the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule into effect for the entire second half.
In fact, the contest actually reached the necessary 30-point threshold for that rule with six minutes and 55 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Colts then scored once more just 16 seconds into the final quarter, when backup quarterback Davis Singleton scampered 37 yards for the touchdown, followed by his subsequent two-point conversion run.
That made Meadowbrook’s lead its largest of the game at 55 points (62-7), as the Oaks averted the shutout with a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs following a pair of 60-yard second-half drives.
However, it was way too little and way too late, as the Colts accomplished something quite rare — even unheard of — en route to the blowout and near shutout.
Following a loss of two yards on their opening play from scrimmage, their only other negative play was their final — a kneel-down from the shotgun.
Both clubs are now 8-3, although Oak Hill’s season — spearheaded by its 16 seniors and climaxed by its final Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship — came to a difficult end.
The Oaks entered Saturday night’s affair without standout senior linebacker and fullback Bayley Clutters, who suffered a broken left fibula on the first offensive snap against Green in the regular-season finale.
A Division V second-team all-Ohio linebacker as a junior — and whom Dugan discussed as the “best linebacker I have ever coached” —Clutters collected a massive 116 tackles this season, including 16 tackles for loss with five sacks and two fumble recoveries.
In the Oaks’ wing-T offensive attack, Clutters carried by far the most, amassing 118 for 1,047 yards and 15 touchdowns — with an impressive nine yards per carry average.
If that wasn’t injury and insult enough, the Oaks then lost lineman Caden Harden following the first defensive series.
Harden had 73 tackles including 11 for loss with three sacks and two fumble recoveries, but had been suffering from a high-ankle sprain for the past two weeks.
So now down their two top defensive players, the Oaks’ climb just got a whole lot steeper —and the Colts just gashed the Oaks for 253 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 29 carries.
In addition, Meadowbrook quarterback Davis Black burned Oak Hill for 120 yards on 5-of-7 passing.
Singleton rushed for 50 yards on six carries, but the two primary backs in Brady Blattner (nine carries for 86 yards) and Timmy Ferguson (seven carries for 74 yards) scored two short touchdowns apiece while combining for 16 carries and 160 yards.
Without Clutters and Harden holding down the fort, that tandem averaged 10 yards per touch, as Black called his own number from a yard away to cap off the Colts’ longest march — an eight-play, 67-yard, two-minute and 36-seconds series.
Ferguson — who finished with four total —had the two-point conversion run to make it 22-0 just two minutes into the second quarter, and the rout was officially on.
“We knew they were going to be a dynamic offense and were going to be tough to slow down. Bayley (Clutters) was our defensive leader in a lot of statistical categories, but our second-leading guy was Caden (Harden). So you’re down your top two statistical guys right off the bat. But the obvious situation was they (Colts) had some athletes,” said Dugan. “Their quarterback can deliver the ball just about anywhere in any kind of window. Their two running backs (Blattner and Ferguson) were as good as advertised. They ran really well and they were really shifty and tough to get into space. There were a number of times where we had two or three guys that had shots on them, but we couldn’t make the tackle. They held pretty true to form from what we saw on film. We were kind of hoping we could slow them down a little bit, but that wasn’t the case. They were able to pretty much pick and choose what they wanted to do tonight. We couldn’t get their offense off the field. Our defensive goal was to get four stops, which we didn’t get.”
While Newfound Glory once sang it’s all downhill from here, the Oaks’ uphill battle never got off the ground.
Ferguson returned the opening kickoff 57 yards to the Oaks’ 25-yard-line, then after his loss of two yards, he gained nine and 16, setting up the 2-yard TD run by Blattner taking the direct snap.
The Oaks then picked up one first down apiece on each of their opening two possessions, but were forced to punt after seven and six plays.
In between, the Colts went up 14-0 exactly six minutes after their opening score.
This time, and starting from his own 25, Black quickly completed the drive in three passes — a 12-yarder to Blattner, a 36-yarder on a hook-and-ladder play with Ferguson gaining the final 33 yards, and a 27-yarder on the touchdown to his brother Addy Black.
Trailing 22-0, the Oaks then went three-and-out, but the punt went just three yards to the Colts’ 35.
Three plays, and a minute and seven seconds later, Ferguson found the end zone again — this time on the actual touchdown from five yards out.
Blattner then ran in the two-point conversion, making it 30-0 with 6:55 to play in the second quarter.
Isaac Morgan then played quarterback on the Oaks’ next series, and it started safely enough as he completed a 4-yard pass to Bradey Chandler.
But the Colts sacked Morgan for a six-yard loss on the next play, then Blattner intercepted him for six points on the play after that.
Blattner’s 32-yard “pick six”, with Ferguson’s third of four two-point conversion runs, upped the Meadowbrook advantage to a commanding 38-0 — just a minute and 18 seconds after the difference hit 30.
The Black and White were outgained by over 200 yards in the opening half (252-50), and only averaged two yards per carry as they rushed for 46 (23 carries) with three first downs.
“We never got our offense on pace to where we wanted it. We made some self-inflicted mistakes and some were forced by them,” said Dugan. “The pick-six was their all-state inside linebacker (Blattner) floating over to make a play. They had four athletes on the field that were just outstanding.”
The Oaks failed to cross midfield for the entire first half, then failed to do so on their opening possession of the second — a turnover on downs following four plays.
Oak Hill hit paydirt against the Colts’ second-team defense both times, as Walker Smith completed a nine-play five-and-a-half minute drive to get the Oaks on the board with 2:27 left in the third.
Brock Harden hit the extra point, as the Oaks then amassed an 11-play seven-and-a-half minute march in the fourth, which Conley concluded by finding the end zone.
Smith finished with 61 yards on 11 attempts, while Triston Diltz — Clutters’ replacement — delivered 48 yards on 17 totes.
Regular quarterback Colin Hughes had 39 yards on 10 rushes in his final game.
Although it was indeed a night to forget for Oak Hill, the 16 seniors can savor back-to-back outright SOC I titles, back-to-back playoff appearances and back-to-back 8-3 records.
“This game is absolutely not a reflection of the year. The kids battled through an entire season. They put in a lot of work to earn a playoff spot and win an SOC I championship again,” said Dugan. “They had just phenomenal work ethic and were led by those seniors. Those guys were always the ones that set the tone. They had outstanding leadership and we’re going to miss them. With those guys leaving, we’ve got big shoes to fill. Our goal was to improve ourselves each week, and I think we did that. Our guys progressively got better as the year went on. I’m really proud of the effort for the season. There’s a lot of good things to draw from.”