E.A. Sports Today

Back in the race

Smallest players make biggest plays as Ohatchee climbs back into the region race by stopping Weaver

Ohatchee’s Baylee Graham (10) wasn’t able to stop Weaver’s Robert Gaines from getting this fourth-quarter touchdown, but he had two interceptions in the game. On the cover, Domonique Thomas rushed for more than 200 yards in helping the Indians control the tempo. (Photos by Daniel Lee)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE — When the Ohatchee Indians lost their Class 3A Region 5 opener to Randolph County a couple weeks ago, a lot of folks outside the Creekbank had given up on the Indians landing a high finish in the region standings or even making the playoffs.

That’s how stout the region is they play in.

Well, Friday night the Tribe had a message for those doomsayers. “Don’t count us out.”
The Indians did everything they had to do to stay alive in the region race and it resulted in a 28-13 Homecoming win over Weaver.

They controlled the ball, which controlled the clock, keeping Weaver’s fast offense off the field, and when they got the lead they kept it – thanks to some timely defense. Perhaps most importantly, unlike the series of misfortunes that befell them against Randolph County, they didn’t turn over the ball.

A loss in the game would have ended their hopes of winning the region title and left them fighting for their playoff lives. Now, they’re back in the hunt fighting for at least a home playoff opener. After Friday night, they are tied with Randolph County for second in the region and have yet to play Piedmont, the only remaining unbeaten team in the region.

“This was about showing we ain’t finished and we’re still fighting and we’re going to make it deep in the playoffs again this year,” sophomore running back Domonique Thomas said. “People said if we didn’t get this one we probably weren’t going to make the playoffs. That motivated us and we just came out here and fought hard.”

“Yeah, it’s letting people know we ain’t done,” added junior defensive back Baylee Graham. “It kept us in the running.”

Thomas and Graham may have been two of the smallest players on the field, but they made the biggest plays in the game for the Indians (4-1, 2-1).

Thomas, at 5-foot-8, rushed for 203 yards on 33 carries and scored the Indians’ last two touchdowns. Graham, a junior defensive back who will tell you he’s — ahem — 5-6 1/2, had two interceptions, including one the final four minutes that sealed the victory.

“I can’t say enough about those guys,” Ohatchee coach Scott Martin said. “Those little ol’ dudes just kept on battlin’. (Graham) played like he was six-feet tall.”

Ohatchee threw only one pass all day. it was a fourth-and-1 call from the 11 that turned into the Indians’ go-ahead touchdown to Larry Noah. Keeping it on the ground was good for the Indians; they ran 50 running plays – eight more than Weaver’s total plays – and amassed 289 yards on the ground.

As they ran, the clock kept running, and occasionally they’d score. Thomas’s first touchdown was an 11-yard run with 1:14 left in the first half and his second was a 30-yard run in the fourth quarter that made it 28-7.

“We just got our butts kicked; defensively we couldn’t stop them,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “That’s their plan — hold the ball and run out the clock, and that’s what they did. I guarantee their time of possession was twice as long as ours.

“We didn’t do a good job tackling. Seven (Thomas) is a great running back and he’s gonna be really good, but we’ve got to gang-tackle him. We had him in backfield probably eight times but he keeps running, churning those legs. You can tell he’s a strong kid. We knew that coming into it and I think now we’re believers.”

While Thomas kept Ohatchee’s offense moving, Graham stopped Weaver’s offense at two crucial times. His first interception kept the Bearcats from answering Ohatchee’s touchdown pass. His second was a nice defensive play down around the goal line.

Maybe it was a case of picking on the little guy, but Graham made them pay.

“I get that, I’m not a big guy, but I prepare for it,” he said.

It was a bittersweet win, however, as the Indians likely have lost running back and linebacker Jesse Sellers for the season to a broken ankle that required surgery. Sellers scored the Indians’ first touchdown of the game on a 26-yard run and then got hurt moving the chains on third down early in the third quarter.

Thomas said several players got emotional when Sellers got hurt. Weaver quarterback Dalton Hamby came off the Bearcats sideline to comfort Sellers as trainers were preparing to transport him from the field. Actually, Sellers specifically asked for Hamby, who had endured a similarly excruciating leg injury two years ago.

“Coach had to calm us down,” Thomas said. “He said keep your cool and do it for 2. That’s what we did.”

[table id=67 /]

Weaver 0 7 0 6 — 13
Ohatchee 7 14 0 7 — 28

O – Jesse Sellers 26 run (Gage Harrell kick), 1:51 1Q
W – Dalton Hamby 13 run (Riley Benavides kick), 8:36 2Q
O – Larry Noah 11 pass from Grayson Alward (Gage Harrell kick), 4:59 2Q
O – Domonique Thomas 11 run (Gage Harrell kick), 1:14 2Q
O – Domonique Thomas 30 run (Gage Harrell kick), 9:47 4Q
W – Robert Gaines 9 pass from Dalton Hamby (run failed), 6:20 4Q

Ohatchee’s Jesse Sellers breaks into the open on his way to the game’s first touchdown. Later in the game Sellers suffered a season-ending ankle injury. (Photo by Daniel Lee)

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