E.A. Sports Today

OT thriller

Wellborn edges Ohatchee 20-14 in OT in battle of Top 10 Class 3A Region 5 rivals

Wellborn’s Calvin Spinks (8) moves in to bring down Ohatchee quarterback Eli Ennis on fourth down in overtime to preserve the Panthers’ 20-14 victory. On the cover, Wellborn quarterback Jett Smith scores the go-ahead touchdown. (Photos by Dave Brandsma)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE — Jett Smith went 8 yards around the left side on the second play of overtime and the Wellborn defense kept Ohatchee out of the end zone on its four plays to win a hard-hitting 20-14 battle of top 10 3A Region 5 teams on the Creekbank Friday night.

It was Wellborn’s first overtime game since 2016 and its first OT win since 2006. It’s the earliest Ohatchee has lost a game since 2017 when it dropped its third game of that season.

It was Wellborn’s first win since 2014 at Ohatchee, where Panthers coach Jeff Smith coached from 1997 to 2002.

Wellborn entered the game No. 3 in the Class 3A poll. Ohatchee was No. 6. Jett Smith called it “probably the hardest game I’ve ever played in,” and the Panthers had two monumental clashes with eventual state champion Piedmont last year.

“You’ve got two teams going at it tied up 14-14 going to overtime, one team scores the other team just falls a little short,” Wellborn coach Jeff Smith said. “My hat’s off to Ohatchee and coach (Scott) Martin. They’ve got a great program, the kids played so hard, but I want to commend our kids tonight. They hit that wall and they went over it. A lot of teams can’t do that, but we found a way to do it tonight. I’m very proud of them.”

The game was the defensive battle everyone expected. Although Ohatchee did outgain their visitors by almost a 2-to-1 margin, the Indians (2-1) they were the victim of two turnovers — one an interception that killed a threat at the goal line and the other a fumble Wellborn converted into a touchdown In the third quarter that broke a 6-6 tie.

Ohatchee tied the game at 14 on Eli Ennis’ 22-yard touchdown run and Noah Fuller’s two-point conversion in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

Ennis rushed for 158 yards in the game. Fuller rushed for 92. The Indians rushed for 258 yards as a team, but there was just something missing.

“Give them credit, they did great job,” Martin said. “It was a physical football game and I felt like they were well-prepared, but I don’t think I did my best coaching job. But I don’t want to take anything away from their win and blame it on anything other than they outplayed us. I thought they were a little hungrier.

“I did not think we played with any emotion. I think they took it to us a little bit and we played very uninspired football. I thought our defense played well enough to give us a chance to win the game and offensively we stunk it up.”

Wellborn’s Calvin Spinks (8) grabs hold of anything he can get a hand on to keep Ohatchee’s Noah Fuller from getting into the end zone. Spinks pulled Fuller down at the 1, but Fuller scored on the next play. (Photo by Dave Brandsma)

Wellborn (2-0), which hadn’t scored a point again the Indians in five years before Friday, rushed for 127 yards. Smith had 64 yards. Calvin Spinks rushed for 57 yards and had both of the Panthers’ touchdowns in regulation.

Both teams had two possessions to get the go-ahead score before the end of regulation, but neither could capitalize because of the defense of the other.

Wellborn got the ball first in overtime. Spinks went to the left side and picked up a couple yards. Smith went the same way on the next snap and made it all the way to the end zone. The snap on the extra point was low and the Panthers couldn’t save it.

If the Indians could execute they could win. Ennis ran it all four snaps. He got it down to the 2, but on third down he was dropped at the line of scrimmage. The Indians’ fourth down play was doomed by a low snap.

“We just wanted to get stops,” TiQuan Taylor said. “We couldn’t let anybody get past us, couldn’t let anybody score.”

“We just reminded ourselves before we went out there of all the hard stuff we’ve gone through in workouts and stuff like that,” Jett Smith said. “We lined up against them and we played our hardest.”

When the Panthers swamped Ennis on fourth down to secure the win, Taylor erupted off the field to embrace any Panther he could find.

He jumped on assistant coach Judd Smith first and almost took him to the ground, and then Judd made his way over to the head coach. The father-and-son Smiths then walked happily off the field with their arms around each other’s shoulders, a moment Jeff Smith described as priceless.

Meanwhile, Thomas couldn’t get to the Panthers’ dressing area behind the bleachers and his phone fast enough to tweet out the news.

“‘Big dub,'” Thomas said he texted to the world. “They’re rivals and this game could decide where we’re going to be in the playoffs and I’m just excited. That was a big win.”

To see a gallery of photos from this game click on this link: www.camerainnandbikes.com

Wellborn         0   6  8   0  6   –   20
Ohatchee         6   0  0   8  0   –   14
O – Noah Fuller 1 run (kick failed), 2:15 1Q
W – Calvin Spinks 1 run (kick failed), 7:51 2Q
W – Calvin Spinks 1 run (TiQuan Thomas run), 1:40 3Q
O – Eli Ennis 22 run (Noah Fuller run), 11:08 4Q
W – Jett Smith 8 run (kick failed), OT

Well (20)Ohat (14)
Wellborn coach Jeff Smith (R) rushes out to greet Ohatchee’s Scott Martin at the end of the game while his Panthers celebrate their overtime victory behind him. (Photo by Dave Brandsma)

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