E.A. Sports Today

Tribe rolls on

Seventh-ranked Ohatchee beats Wellborn for first time in 55 years, enters bye week 7-0

It's about 30 minutes before kickoff, Ohatchee goes through its pregame routine and the officials huddle in the vacant end of the field while everyone waits for Wellborn to arrive.

It’s about 30 minutes before kickoff, Ohatchee goes through its pregame routine and the officials huddle in the vacant end of the field while everyone waits for Wellborn to arrive.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE — Every part of Austin Tucker’s body hurt, but he never felt better.

Tucker and his Ohatchee teammates cleared a major hurdle towards its first region title in 14 years Friday night, shutting out Wellborn 21-0, setting up a Class 3A Region 5 showdown with top-ranked Piedmont in two weeks.

It was the Indians’ first win over the Panthers since the 1961 opener – a year before head coach Scott Martin was born. Three players off that team were in attendance at the game.

The seventh-ranked Indians (7-0, 4-0) collected 234 yards of offense without throwing a pass. Tucker rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Taylor Eubanks rushed for 83 yards and two scores, the back-breaker being a 54-yard burst late in the fourth quarter.

Tucker delivered a crushing block to clear Eubanks’ final path on the long run, a block that contributed as much to the running back’s aches as any of his 30 carries against the physical Panthers.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m hurting right now, but that’s the best thing ever, for real,” Tucker said. “I hurt everywhere – except my mind. This is a big rivalry game and we came out here and got it done. The thing I love the most is we got a shutout.”

Not to be overlooked is the play of Ohatchee’s defense. The Indians held Wellborn to 157 total yards, only 36 in the second half.

The game was 7-0 at halftime. The Panthers (3-2, 1-2) went for it on fourth down three times in the second quarter and were denied each time. The first was a stop by Kevin Williamson and Jesse Sellers after a short gain, the second was an end-zone interception by Anthony Alward and the third was a pass that fell incomplete in the end zone.

Martin called them the key to the game.

It was the Indians’ first shutout of a region opponent since 2008 (Horseshoe Bend) and only the second time Wellborn has been blanked in the regular season since 2010. Ohatchee’s only other win in the series, which resumed in 2012 after a 47-year break, was 6-0.

“First of all, let’s just say that was one of the finest defensive efforts I’ve ever seen out of a high school football team,” Martin said. “They refused to bend their back. We stiffened our resolve. Unbelievable defense. I’m telling you that was one of the finest efforts of defense; coach (Blake) Jennings and them did a remarkable job.

“Our defense has gotten better and better and better. People give a lot of credit to our offense because we’ve scored so many points, but the reality is the defense has given us a lot of opportunities.”

Credit Wellborn’s defense as well. The Panthers held Ohatchee to its lowest points output of the season. The Indians had scored at least 34 in every game.

The Indians haven’t won this many games in a season since 2002 and the seven they have are more than the previous three seasons combined – and one of those was a forfeit.

Wellborn put a lot into the game. The Panthers closed their practices and school officials shooed away several prying eyes during the week. On game day, the Panthers did their pregame warm-ups at school and arrived at the Creekbank 10 minutes before kickoff fully dressed and ready to go.

There were no rules regarding arrival time; all the Panthers had to do was be there for the 7 p.m. kickoff. “We were on time,” Wellborn principal Chris Hayes said.

Panthers coach Jeff Smith, the Ohatchee head coach the last time the Indians had any real success, said he did it that way to keep his team completely focused on a big game. The teams were basically playing to secure a home playoff game.

“It wasn’t a mind card,” he said. “I was just trying to make sure we could keep away from the distractions as much as possible.”

The Ohatchee players say they weren’t fazed. While there were some puzzled looks from the crowd and the referees when only half of the field was being used for warmups, the Indians went about their pregame routine as normal. Martin said the Panthers’ tactic was never discussed when the players went back to the dressing room for their final instructions.

“We just had to stay focused,” Eubanks said. “We knew they were trying to play some mind games with us, but we just stayed focused.”

Ohatchee 21, Wellborn 0

Wellborn 0 0 0 0 — 0
Ohatchee 7 0 7 7 — 21

O – Taylor Eubanks 6 run (Gage Harrell kick), 1:19 1Q
O – Austin Tucker 30 run (Gage Harrell kick), 8:55 3Q
O – Taylor Eubanks 54 run (Gage Harrell kick), 4:36 4Q

Team stats Wel Oha
First downs 9 12
Rushes-yds 28-115 28-234
Passing yds 44 0
Passing 5-15-2 0-0-0
Fumbles-lost 3-0 1-0
Punts-avg 5-31.6 4-36.5
Penalties-yds 5-28 5-37

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