By JUSTIN RAINS
MEXIA — Damiyne Durham came diving in from the offense’s left side, hoping to get a piece of the kick from Abbott’s Cade Ramsey.
All Durham got was a helmet directly into his knee after running into the holder, and as the Oakwood star quarterback and defender lay writhing on Blackcat Field in pain, the dream season that the Panthers had hoped for all year slowly slipped away.
Oakwood fell to Abbott, 78-33, in a mercy-rule shortened Division I, Region IV championship game here Friday, with 52 of Abbott’s points coming after Durham left with his injury and didn’t return.
“It took our running game (out of the spread) completely,” OHS coach Mike Heckathorn said of the loss of Durham.
It’s not as if the Oakwood defense changed with Durham going out, however. Prior to the junior’s injury, the Panthers put up very little resistance in the face of the Abbott offensive attack.
Abbott opened the game with a kick-off return for a score, and then took only one play on each of its next two drives to find the endzone, with Tyler Russell rushing for both scores.
What changed for Oakwood when Durham left the field was its ability to keep up with Abbott.
Durham led the Panthers to three-straight scoring drives to open the game, converting 4th-and-long on the first two at around midfield to keep things alive in the process.
On the first drive, he found Dominique Johnson for a 42-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-15, while hitting Shaquille Caldwell for a 29-yard pass down inside the five on the second.
After the third-drive, which Durham capped himself with a bruising three-yard run, the Panthers led 20-18 and had plenty of momentum.
But, Abbott answered right back and Dillon Beims capped a quick drive with a three-yard scoring run to put Abbott up 24-20, and set up the kick in which Durham was injured.
From that point on, it was all Abbott.
Abbott forced Oakwood turnovers on the next three drives, and turned those all into touchdowns to take a 47-20 lead in a matter of minutes off of the game clock.
Abbott ran its offense to near perfection, and many times Oakwood never got a hand on the ball carrier as they rambled for 20, 30 and even 50 yards at a time.
“They execute, offensively, better than anyone we’ve ever played,” Heckathorn said. “(Their blockers) get on you and stay on you until the back gets by. That’s what the game is all about.”
The Oakwood rushing game was relatively non-existent, as the Panthers ran for only 48 yards on 16 carries.
Couple that with three Oakwood fumbles and it all but eliminated the desire for the Panthers to run the ball.
Oakwood did find some success passing the ball, both with Durham and without him.
In place of Durham, freshman David Allen performed admirably, but lacked the mobility in the pocket that allows Durham to be a rushing threat from Oakwood’s spread offense, which opens up passing lanes.
Durham was 4-of-6 passing for 117 yards and a touchdown in the short time he played, while Allen was 10-17 for 109 yards.
“He’s just a freshman, and he was back there throwing it around,” Heckathorn said. “He had the pick, but that was him just throwing it to somebody that was covered.”
But Oakwood simply wasn’t any match for Abbott, which reeled off big play after big play with relative ease.
Russell ran for 202 yards on 10 carries for Abbott, while Beims finished with 111 yards on only five carries.
Total, Abbott ran for 361 yards on 18 carries, and only threw the ball three times.
Johnson led Oakwood’s receivers with 88 yards on five catches, while Caldwell caught three passes for 82 yards.