E.A. Sports Today

Ohatchee wins big

Indians flex muscles in opening round of Class 2A playoffs, run over Cedar Bluff, face Red Bay next

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

OHATCHEE – Scott Martin and the Ohatchee Indians have been where Cedar Bluff is before.

The Tigers were making the move up a class to 2A this season for the first time in school history. Meanwhile, Ohatchee moved down to 2A after four years in a tough region in Class 3A.

Those tracks crossed Friday night in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs and second-ranked Ohatchee got the better of it in a 47-12 win on the Creekbank.

“We took our lumps,” Martin said. “We were 1-9 (in 2014), but we were able to make some adjustments and rebound the next year to have a little bit of success.

“In the last 35 games, we’ve been 30-5. A lot of that is in 3A. Coming down to 2A, we’ve played some really tough 3A competition, so we feel like we’re seasoned in that respect.”

Junior running back Domonique Thomas tallied 141 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Grayson Alward added 140 yards and two scores on 10 totes, and senior fullback Cam McCombs managed 63 yards and a score on eight carries.

“The problem with going from 1A to 2A is a numbers game,” Martin continued. “I think they dressed around 26 tonight. We dressed 48 or 49. It becomes a battle of attrition toward the end. We were able to keep a lot of fresh bodies in. We had a lot of fresh bodies in the second quarter.”

It didn’t take long for the Indians (10-0) to establish themselves. After forcing the Tigers (7-4) to punt on their opening possession, Thomas capped an 8-play, 47-yard drive with his first score of the night – a 2-yard touchdown run. Gage Harrell’s extra point missed the mark, but Ohatchee held a 6-0 lead with 6:23 remaining in the opening quarter.

Ohatchee’s defense firmly established its presence on the Tigers’ next drive. Larry Noah picked off the first of four Luke Hampton interceptions. Noah returned the ball to the Tiger 29, and five plays later, Alward scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard run. Harrell hit the point after for a 13-0 Ohatchee advantage.

The big-play presence demonstrated by the Indians continued into the second quarter. Thomas tallied his second score on a 58-yard run, then after another Hampton interception, Alward cashed that into an 80-yard touchdown run.

Following Hampton’s third pick, Thomas put the game away on a 20-yard run. With 2:41 remaining in the first half, Ohatchee held a 33-0 lead.

“I told my guys before the game we needed to create some turnovers, which on a night like tonight, you have those opportunities,” Martin said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation. We had three picks in the first half and no turnovers the whole game. We ended up plus-3 on that side of it (in the first half). We’re plus-12 on the turnovers through the year, and you’ll win a lot of football games if you do that.”

Despite the lopsided score, the Tigers didn’t quit. They took their final possession of the half and generated their best drive of the night, capped off with senior receiver Tray Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown catch as time expired in the half. The extra point was blocked, keeping the score at 33-6.

Wilson was one of the few bright spots the Tigers had. He finished with a career-high nine catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but our kids continued to fight and we made some plays too,” Cedar Bluff coach Jonathan McWhorter said. “There are some things we felt we left on the field, but there were some things we did well … It’s always tough when you lose a football game, but I’m proud of who our kids are and how they compete.”

Ohatchee picked up where it left off in the second half. McCombs finished off a 7-play, 64-yard drive with his 9-yard score. Senior running back Todd Dover capped the Indians’ scoring with a 3-yard run late in the third quarter.

Hampton, who completed 17-of-30 pass attempts for 163 yards and a touchdown through the air, also added an 8-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for the final.

Ohatchee hosts Red Bay in the second round next Friday.

“This is our third year in a row being in the playoffs,” Martin said. “That part helps, but we also know we got beat in the first round last year. That left a bad taste in our mouths. They were reminded of it daily all off-season, all summer, and especially today. We brought it to their attention to make sure they wouldn’t forget.

“Everybody’s got a goal when they get in this thing. There’s 32 teams. Everybody’s got a goal to win a state championship, but the reality of it is 31 teams are going to lose their last game. There’s only going to be one who is going to be a state champion.

“Are we good enough to go to a state championship? I really can’t answer that question because all I’m worried about is getting to round two. Now we’re in round two. The only thing we’re going to focus on over the next five or six days is what we’ve got to do to beat a good Red Bay football team. They’re coming in next Friday, and we’re going to have to be ready to go. We just went from 32 to 16 teams, and those 16 teams are good football teams.”

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald. Cover photo of Ohatchee’s Domonique Thomas by Shannon Fagan.

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