Oakland's Patriots (7-0, 4-0) claim sole leadership of first place in region 3-6A in convincing fashion with a 40-0 lashing of the Blackman Blaze (3-4, 3-1) at The Inferno Friday night.
A large part of the Patriots’ scoring came from defense and special teams, with a combined three touchdowns and a safety.
“We love the way our guys play special teams,” Oakland coach Kevin Creasy said. “It’s always been a big deal here. We’ve had great special teams in the past and this may be the best we’ve ever had.
"We’ve got guys that take it seriously and know it’s a real honor. I can’t say enough about the work (coach) Jeremy Anderson does, and of course we had some big plays tonight out of Victor Stephenson.”
Stephenson did indeed have a huge night for Oakland, with 160 all-purpose yards (134 return) and a two punt return touchdowns of 37 and 55 yards.
“It’s all about my teammates setting up that wall,” Stephenson said. “I get my vision and see which way I want to go then take it to the house. But I have to thank them (teammates) for blocking well so I can set up the offense with good field position.”
Both teams played well defensively, as Blackman and senior linebacker Conner Murphy held the high octane Oakland ground attack to just over 200 yards and Patriot quarterback Kody Sparks to just 66 yards.
However, Oakland’s defense played even better. The Patriots yielded just 65 total yards and two first downs on the night, winning the field position battle and making it almost impossible for any Blackman momentum.
The Oakland defense put points on the board as well. The Patriots got a safety by forcing Blackman quarterback Drew Beam to ground the ball in the end zone, and Dejon Glaster returned a fumble for a touchdown that was a result of a strip-sack by Ethan McLaurin.
“It’s awesome (to score on defense/special teams) and we’ve done it all year,” Creasy said. “It keeps the pressure of the offense and can change the game. I tell these guys who want the ball to get it on defense.”
Both Patriot offensive touchdowns were at the hands of Sparks, a 1-yard run and an 18-yard strike to Tim Pannell. Michael Turk added a 21-yard field goal, and was 5 for 5 on extra points.
This game has determined the region champ for the past several years, but Creasy pointed out that this season there may be another team that has something to say about it:
“It usually does (determine the region champ) but Riverdale led these guys for the whole game, so we’ve got a lot of respect for them and they’re our next opponent," Playing back to back tough games has certainly got our attention.”