A key battle for the SOC I championship takes place Friday evening in Oak Hill, Ohio where the Oaks will play host to the Notre Dame Titans.
The Titans and Oaks meet for a week 5 matchup which could have lasting implications on the race for the SOC I championship.
Both teams opened conference play last week with wins. Notre Dame (3-1) enters the game fresh off a 28-19 conference win over the Eastern Eagles, while Oak Hill (1-3) earned their first win of the season last Friday, when they defeated Symmes Valley, 50-0.
“They’re (Oak Hill) definitely better than the record shows, that’s for sure,” Notre Dame football coach Bob Ashley said. “As far as our end of it, we’re going to have to use our speed and quickness to take advantage of them and try to match their toughness.”
The Oaks haven’t had the start they had hoped for in the 2016 season. Oak Hill opened the season with three consecutive losses, a 40-14 loss to Chesapeake in week 1, followed by a two-point loss to Minford 16-14. During week 3, Oak Hill suffered another loss, this time to Rock Hill 33-14.
Despite the three losses to start the season, Oak Hill fired back in the first week of conference play, as they landed a lopsided victory over Symmes Valley, 50-0.
With a deceiving win-loss record, Ashley knows his team will be headed into a physical encounter with the Oaks.
“We know what kind of team we’re going to face,” Ashley said. “They are big and strong and we’re going to have to do some things that we’ve done in the past and gotten away with, we’re going to have to clean up some turnovers and penalties and we can’t afford to miss any tackles defensively.”
If the Titans are able to knock off the defending SOC I champions, they would give Oak Hill its first conference loss since October 17, 2014, when Symmes Valley defeated Oak Hill 31-28. However, Oak Hill football coach Nathan Dugan is focused on leading his squad to their second win of the season and continue momentum for another SOC I title.
“It’s going to be an interesting matchup,” Dugan said. “Notre Dame is an outstanding team and they are 3-1 for a reason and one touchdown away from being undefeated.”
Dugan acknowledged the Oak Hill offense would be a formidable foe for his defense.
“They’ve got two running back that are pretty outstanding athletes. They’re pretty stellar guys who can make or break a play in the blink of an eye,” Dugan said. “Once they get their shoulders squared and head up field there’s very few people who will be able to catch them.”
Sam Kayser and Isiah Johnson must be stopped if Oak Hill hopes to walk away victorious Friday night, according to Dugan.
“Kayser is the one that everybody talks about, being the SOC I back of the year last year and he is as good as advertised,” Dugan said. “Johnson has come on this year as a true threat to break it at any point in a game. Those two guys are kind of what we have to look to stop.”
If Oak Hill is able to corral Kayser and Johnson, then Dugan believes his team will be on even keel with the Titans.
Ashley knows his team will have their hands full trying to compete physically with the Oak Hill Oaks.
“We’re going to have to rely on our speed and quickness against their size,” Ashley said. “You can’t afford a whole lot of mistakes against them. They are a well-coached ball club.”
Last year, the Titans were unable to get many points on the scoreboard against the Oaks, losing 26-6 at Spartan Municipal Stadium.
“They’re going to be well-prepared for us; they always are,” Ashley said. “It will be a matter of who makes the least mistakes and who can make plays and who can’t.”
The Oak Hill Oaks will host the Notre Dame Titans Friday evening at Oak Hill High School in Oak Hill, Ohio. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext. 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.