In a game which definitely ran the gauntlet of the unusual, it was the most usual of factors which contributed to the Oaks’ surprising loss to the Chesapeake Panthers Friday at Oak Hill High School’s Davis Stadium.
OAK HILL — Oak Hill head football coach Greg Phillips, not wasting any time, labeled the videotape of the Oaks’ season-opening football game on Friday night as “Disaster on file.”
If Phillips had his way, though, it’s a videotape he would like to burn.
In a game which definitely ran the gauntlet of the unusual, it was the most usual of factors which contributed to the Oaks’ surprising loss to the Chesapeake Panthers at Oak Hill High School’s Davis Stadium.
Way — way — too many mistakes by the Oaks allowed the Panthers to hang around, as Chesapeake clawed its way back from a 20-7 first-quarter deficit to pull out a 30-29 victory in the 2008 season opener.
The two teams had not met since the 1985 season, and surprising to many, the Oaks fell short in a season opener for at least the fourth straight campaign.
Chesapeake, coming in off a 3-7 season last year, returned just three starters on both sides of the ball, and figured to be a significant underdog to the Oaks’ experienced group.
However, the Panthers made the Oaks pay for their many mistakes on Friday, which included four lost fumbles, two interceptions, two player ejections, three failed extra-point tries, 10 penalties, and a wrong-way run of a fumble recovery which ultimately resulted in a Chesapeake safety.
“You don’t win by turning the ball over as many times as we did and by committing as many penalties as we did. It’s stupid stuff. We’re paying for it now by being 0-1 instead of 1-0 and looking at a rough road ahead,” said Phillips.
The final score was a one-point difference, as the safety, two missed extra-point kicks and an incomplete two-point conversion pass with 4.4 seconds remaining all figured into the equation.
After the game, a disappointed Phillips said he accepted the responsibly for the loss.
“My philosophy is this: the players always win the games and the coaches, or in this particular case, the coach always loses the game. We lost the game, it’s my fault,” said Phillips. “We didn’t practice well enough this week. I take the blame for that. (Chesapeake) Coach Davis a better job of coaching his team.”
The Oaks actually led three times on Friday, including as large as 20-7 following three touchdowns in a span of four minutes in the first quarter.
And, in a variety of ways.
Westen Hale put the Oaks on the board with an 81-yard run, then returned a blocked punt 11 yards for a score just 3:56 later.
Sandwiched in between was a bad snap by Chesapeake on another punt attempt, which lost 25 yards before Oak Hill senior Josh Perkins pounced on the pigskin in the end zone.
In fact, Oak Hill held a 20-7 advantage at the end of the first period, and had only recorded four plays from scrimmage.
“How many teams recover a bad snap and a fumble for a touchdown, then come back a series later and block a punt and score?” said Phillips. “When you block a punt and score a touchdown, you win the game 96-percent of the time.”
But this game fell in the other four percentile.
Trailing 23-22 following a 21-yard field goal by Dylan Lewis with 9:25 remaining, the Panthers answered just 4:06 later to gain an edge which they did not lose.
After a pair of 15-yard passes picked up a pair of first downs, the Panthers punched the ball into the end zone when senior quarterback Aaron Donahoe connected with Peter Hintz for a 36-yard touchdown pass.
Hintz, who wears the jersey 25, made the reception at the 25-yard-line before making a couple of nice moves for the touchdown.
Donahoe, who enjoyed an outstanding night, then ran in the two-point conversion for a 30-23 Chesapeake lead.
He earlier scored on a pair of 1-yard quarterback sneaks, and finished the game with four total touchdowns and 214 passing yards on 8-of-11 attempts.
He was also the Panthers’ leading rusher, collecting 53 yards on 19 tries.
Prior to the Lewis field goal for Oak Hill, Donahoe connected with Kyle Webb for an 80-yard pitch-and-catch for the lone score of the third.
Webb wound up with 162 receiving yards on just four receptions.
With Zach Harris’ second extra-point kick of the night, the Panthers had scored 15 unanswered to seize a 22-20 lead and established momentum.
The tide began to turn prior to halftime, when one of the strangest plays in high school history resulted in a safety for Chesapeake and the deficit reduced to 20-15.
After Donahoe hit Webb with a 31-yard bullet down the middle of the field, Webb was stripped of the ball by an Oak Hill defender at the 30, as he scooped up the ball 10 more yards downfield and raced to the end zone.
But, it was the wrong end zone, with shades of former NFL player Jim Marshall’s famous wrong-way run.
After the Oak Hill player realized what he had done, he dropped the football, which made it a fumble and live.
He recovered, but was tackled in the end zone by the Panthers for a shocking safety.
On the scoreboard, the safety turned out to be significant, but could have been immaterial had the Oaks made two extra point kicks in the first quarter.
Instead, the only extra point they converted all evening was a two-point conversion pass from Jesse Slone to J.D. Hale which made it 14-7 following Perkins’ fumble recovery.
However, that would not be the last hookup between Slone — and a Hale — on the night.
With the Panthers leading 30-23, Oak Hill would have one last chance to at least tie— if not win — in the final 75 seconds.
Facing a 3rd-and-24 from his own 21-yard line, Slone sailed a pass to Westen Hale, who made the grab beyond a gambling Panther defender and sprinted all the way to the Chesapeake 10.
Then, facing 4th-and-goal from the 15, and with 10 seconds to play, Slone lobbed a ball to the six-foot-six-inch J.D. Hale, who made the catch in the corner and brought the Oaks to within two.
Speaking of two, Phillips said he didn’t have to think about kicking or going for two on the extra-point attempt.
A kick would have meant a tie and an overtime session, but converting a run or pass would mean an Oaks win.
“There wasn’t any hesitation on going for two,” said Phillips. “The kids wanted to go for it and win the game and we had the momentum.”
On the conversion try, Slone was pressured and heaved a pass up for Hale, who tried to outjump the Panthers once again and come down with the ball.
But Hale, in between converging defenders, could not make the reception as Chesapeake’s defense contributed to the incompletion.
With that, Chesapeake come onto the field to take a single knee.
Slone completed 9-of-20 passes for 171 yards, including three apiece to J.D. Hale and fellow sophomore Joey Maynard.
Westen Hale was the team’s leading rusher with 134 of the team’s 165 rushing yards on just five carries.
The Oaks demonstrated great balance on offense, amassing 168 total yards in each half.
However, they overshadowed their offensive numbers by their own mistakes.
The Oaks lost a fumble on a Chesapeake punt, which set up the second of Donahoe’s 1-yard sneaks.
Slone and Westen Hale, on a halfback pass, were each intercepted in the second stanza.
Things did not get any better in the second half, as the Oaks fumbled and lost the opening kickoff.
Later on, Oak Hill lost a fumble on the center-quarterback exchange, as Slone was sacked for a loss and fumbled away to Chesapeake with 3:17 remaining.
The Oaks also had two senior starters ejected, following a fracas which broke out after an incomplete pass near the end of the third frame.
Justin Fisher, who was involved in the play and subsequent altercation, was ejected for fighting with the Chesapeake player.
Chris Dupree was then ejected for leaving the Oak Hill bench area.
As per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules, both Fisher and Dupree must sit out the next game, which is next Friday at home against River Valley.
The Panthers had their share of mistakes as well, including six fumbles, the blocked punt, and 15 penalties for 122 yards.
However, they made fewer than the Oaks and made the hosts pay.
Following Friday’s loss, Phillips’ postgame press conference was shorter than usual, and said his team has a great deal to improve upon.
This contrary to the Oaks’ preseason scrimmages, in which they looked sharp against both Adena and Zane Trace.
“Anything else I say right now would sound like sour grapes,” said Phillips. “I tip my hat to the team that won and congratulate Chesapeake. We, on the other hand, have to go back to work and have to get a lot better.”