AQUILLA — Key’Undre Davis’ summation at the end of the Oakwood Panthers’ Area battle with Blanket Tigers was short and sweet. Asked what he and his teammates thought when they saw the size of their opponents, the Panthers’ senior standout replied, “We’re used to playing big people. It didn’t mess with us at all.”
Indeed, it did not. The Panthers’ speed and quickness negated the Tigers’ intimidating size, and from an early turnover to the 60-20 final, the Panthers were in control.
Coach Tommy Tritz and his staff used every man in the OHS arsenal — all ten of them.
Jerimiah Sargent intercepted a Tiger pass on the first play of the game, which led to OHS’ first score - a 32-yard touchdown run by Davis, breaking tackles all the way.
Blanket answered that one, but Oakwood fielded the ensuing short kick for good field position. Davis immediately scored again, this time from ten yards out, and he booted the PAT.
Freshman Zack Nickerson forced a fumble and recovered it for OHS, then senior Kaleb Hayslip punched in the Panthers’ third TD. After recovering a high snap on the conversion attempt, Davis lobbed the ball to Bennett Reed for the extra point.
Blanket cut the deficit to one score, but Sargent fielded the ensuing squib kick to set the Panthers up in Blanket territory, and Davis soon scored again from four yards out.
The Panther defense, led by a freshman heat-seeking missile named Isaiah Jacobs, forced a BHS punt. Then Sargent added Oakwood’s fifth touchdown from the 1-yard-line, late in the second quarter. The defense kept the Tigers at bay in the final possession of the half, and OHS took a 34-14 lead into the break.
Davis opened the second half with a 25-yard scoring run.
Blanket was stopped short when pressure by Sargent forced the Tiger quarterback to try an ill-advised pass which was intercepted by Nickerson. The Panthers then fought through several big penalties to keep that drive alive, and Nickerson charged in from the 2-yard-line.
The younger Panthers got plenty of playoff experience in the fourth quarter. Jacobs led the defense in a big stop, forcing a turnover on downs. Then Davis connected with Nickerson on a 36-yard strike. Hayslip added the +1.
Blanket survived a fumble to add their only score of the second half before Oakwood added the final nail in the Tigers’ coffin on a pass play from Cooper Edgemon to Jacobs.
As his players celebrated their win, Coach Tritz said, “A lot of people in the six-man community thought that Blanket was a little bit better than us this year. The way our boys came out and responded, we showed them how the Oakwood Panthers play football. We started out on defense and got a quick turnover, then put the ball in the end zone right off the bat. That set the pace for the entire night. I’m so proud of these boys. We’re looking forward to getting to that regional championship round next week and a chance to get back to the Regional Semifinals.”