OAK HILL — The Division V quarterfinal match-up between the Oak Hill Oaks and the Jeromesville Hillsdale Falcons was everything that is expected in a playoff game. Oak Hill (9-2) survived some tricky play calling and defeated the Falcons (7-4), 29-26.
“Overall this is the reason you have got to love Ohio High School playoff football because you get games like this,” Oak Hill coach Nathan Dugan said. “Just a tremendous effort on both sides tonight.”
In the playoffs everyone should expect the unexpected and that is exactly what happened on opening kickoff. Lined up in regular formation, Hillsdale kicked an onside kick to the right side as Kevin Cline recovered the ball for the Falcons.
However, the Oaks was able to prevent any further damage as the defense came up with a huge 4th-and-8 stop, handing the ball back to Oak Hill.
With the rain falling the ground game quickly became evident as the Oaks were forced out after three plays, giving the ball right back to Hillsdale.
On the ensuing drive, Falcons running back, Corbin Mager busted lose for a 70-yard touchdown run along the right side, giving Hillsdale a 7-0 lead with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter.
Mager finished the first half with 153 rushing yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
After another defensive stop for Hillsdale the offense was right back on the slippery turf. Seven plays later the Falcons scored their second touchdown of the night.
On a 2nd-and-goal, Cline ran right up the middle for a 3-yard rushing score. The score gave Hillsdale a 13-0 after the extra point attempt was blocked with 2:04 remaining in the first quarter.
However, the Oaks responded quickly. On the next possession for Oak Hill starting quarterback, Drew Haislop dropped back and found the open wide out Luke Hammond. The pass found the outstretched arms of Hammond as he corralled the ball with one hand, broke a tackle and ran into the end zone for a 56-yard passing score.
The score cut the Falcons lead to 13-7 with 1:46 remaining in the quarter.
Haislop finished the first half with 84 passing yards, completing 3-of-8 passes for a touchdown.
Trick plays became an early theme for the Hillsdale coaching staff. On the ensuing drive the Falcons faced a 4th-and-3 and lined up to punt. However, punter, Ryan Bee, took the snap and sprinted to the right side, breaking a few tackles and picking up the first down. The gutsy play calls continued to pay off for Hillsdale coach Tom Williams.
The fake punt paid off for the Falcons as the drive ended with another score. After another successful trick play from Mager on a reverse, setting up the Falcons third score of the night.
“That was probably the best offensive play calling we’ve seen all year long, he hit us in moments we weren’t expecting,” Dugan said.
On a 3rd-and-10, Matt Zimmerman swung right as quarterback Dilon Strine connected with the wide out for a 12-yard passing touchdown. The score extended the Falcons lead to 20-7 with 7:53 remaining in the half.
After another defensive stop for Hillsdale, they looked to extend their lead even more as time wound down towards halftime. Threatening on the 28-yard-line, the Oaks needed a momentum shifter.
Strine dropped back on a 1st-and-10 only to find a handful of Oak Hill defensive linesman in his face. Strine was hit as he tried to get rid of the ball as the Oaks recovered the ball, coming up with a much needed stop to prevent any further damage.
Hillsdale held the Oaks to 119 total yards of offense in the first half and only three total first downs. Oak Hill had only 35 rushing yards in the first half as each Wes Harden and Devon Davis each came into the game with over 1,000 rushing yards for the season.
The Falcons had 256 total yards of offense and 10 first downs in the half as they went into halftime leading 20-7.
The second half started out the same as the opening kickoff, only to have Oak Hill recovering the onside kick to retain the ball.
The Oaks responded, taking a little trickery into their own hands. On a 4th-and-goal, Haislop dropped back in what appeared to be a dead play as he scrambled away from the defenders.
“The kick offs definitely allowed us to turn things around in the second half and having pride and trust in our teammates,” Dugan said.
Haislop tossed the ball up in the end zone as Hammond won the jump ball on the corner, cutting the lead to 20-14 with 8:42 left in the third quarter.
However, Oak Hill wasn’t finished with their tricky. Lined up for the kickoff, the Oaks again kicked an unexpected onside kick recovered the ball again.
Hillsdale, however, came up with a huge defensive stop to prevent losing the lead with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
It took until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter for Oak Hill to took the lead for the first time of the game and it took all of 5-foot-8 inch wide out Colton Cox to do so.
On a key 4th-and-5, Haislop dropped back again and again appeared to be caught. However, Haislop slung the ball up in the air as Cox went up and grabbed the ball for the go-ahead score with 11:10 left in the game, leading 21-20.
“Over the years we have tried to incorporate our pass plays and he made plays when he probably shouldn’t have tonight,” Dugan said.
Trailing for the first time in the game, the Falcons responded. On their next drive Hillsdale drove down the field in seven plays and once again took the lead.
After just picking up a key fourth down, Strine dropped back and found a wide open A.J. Flores for a 33-yard connection with 7:49 left in the game, giving them a 26-21 lead.
With both teams’ seasons on the line, Oak Hill had no signs of giving up. On their ensuing drive the Oaks responded as Haislop completed three passes for 66 yards. The third being the biggest. On a 3rd-and-9, Haislop found his favorite target of the evening once more.
Haislop finished the game with 181 passing yards, completing 9-of-17 passes and four touchdowns, three belonging to Hammond.
Hammond grabbed the ball and broke a tackled as he tumbled his way into the end zone, giving the Oaks a 29-26 lead with 6:08 left in the game.
It was Hammond’s third receiving touchdown of the night in which the third being the most important of them all.
Hammond finished the game with five receptions and 127 yards and adding three touchdowns grabs.
In a night of all the tricky that happened it all came down to the final plays in last minute of the game. It was the old fashion defense versus offense as Hillsdale got all the way down to the 2-yard-line with 47 seconds remaining.
“To have a game come down to our defensive and won is almost a full circle from last year and that is exactly what we tried to do this year,” Dugan said.
With 30 seconds remaining the Falcons tried one to many trick plays as Mager faked a run and looked to pass the ball in the end zone, only to have it intercepted.
“I have great respect for Hillsdale,” Dugan said.
Oak Hill won the game and will advance into the semi-finals to play Liberty Union.
Hillsdale 13 7 0 6 26
Oak Hill 7 0 7 15 29
6:19 H- Mager 70 run (Rogers kick) 7-0
2:04 H- Cline 3 run (Kick blocked) 13-0
1:46 O- Hammond 56 pass from Haislop (Christenson kick) 13-7
7:53 H- Zimmerman 12 pass from Strine (Rogers kick) 20-7
8:42 O- Hammond 4 pass from Haislop (Christenson kick) 20-14
11:10 O- Cox 5 pass from Haislop (Christenson kick) 20-21
7:49 H- Flores 33 pass from Strine (Pass fail) 26-21
6:08 O- Hammond 13 pass from Haislop (Run good) 26-29
Total Net Yards 440 284
Rushes-yards 47-313 37-103
Passing 127 181
Comp-Att-Int 11-14-1 9-17-0
Punts-yards 1-40 2-34.5
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penelties-yards 9-72 3-27
PASSING: Oak Hill_ Haislop, 9-17-181-4; Hillsdale_ Strine, 10-12-127-1
RUSHING: Oak Hill_ Harden, 19-74, Davis, 15-44, Haislop, 3—15; Hillsdale_ Cline, 16-71-1, Strine, 7-52, Flores, 2-1, Mager, 20-172-1, Bee, 1-6
RECEIVING: Oak Hill_ Hammond, 5-127-3, Cox, 4-54-1; Hillsdale_ Zimmerman, 2-23-1, Cline, 1—3, Flores, 6-104-1