OAKLEAF – Strong showings by the defense and special teams were not enough for Oakleaf, as the Knights fell to 1-2 on the young season with a 13-12 non-district loss to visiting 4A-Glades Central …
OAKLEAF – Strong showings by the defense and special teams were not enough for Oakleaf, as the Knights fell to 1-2 on the young season with a 13-12 non-district loss to visiting 4A-Glades Central Sept. 2 at Oakleaf High School.
The Oakleaf defense forced three turnovers, two of which led to field goals, and held the visitors scoreless over the final two quarters. In the second quarter, cornerback Tristan Brown stepped in front of a quick hitch pattern, intercepted a throw by the Raiders’ Jaeze Tracey and returned the ball 55 yards to the Raiders’ 20 yard line. The interception was Brown’s second in three games. The Knights mustered only five yards in three plays after the pick, settling for a 27 yard field by Mason McKenney. McKenney was wide left on his first attempt, but an offsides penalty against Glades Central gave him a second chance.
Oakleaf safety Demonte’ Stephens intercepted Tracey at the Glades Central 38 yard line with less than a minute remaining before halftime. A 32-yard bomb from Tre Simmons to Jakari Williams brought the ball to the six, and McKenney connected from there as the clock expired to cut the Knights’ deficit to 13-12.
Oakleaf’s special teams forced another turnover, blocked an extra point attempt, converted both field goal attempts and scored a touchdown. On the kickoff following Tracey’s second touchdown pass of the game, Keshawn King gathered the ball in at the 13 yard line, ran toward a wall of blockers to his right, shot through a crease, made two Raiders miss tackles, weaved his way back to the left sideline and outran the kicker to the end zone. King had returned a kickoff for a touchdown the week before at Orange Park. Yet, the plays made on defense and on special teams were not enough to offset an offense that simply could not move the ball on the ground or through the air against their Class 4A opponents from Belle Glade.
“Both teams played great defense. And we played excellent special teams,” said Oakleaf head coach Steve Reynolds. “We just can’t turn the ball over twice.”
One of Oakleaf’s two turnovers was a turning point. In a game that became a defensive struggle after some early fireworks, Stephens gave the Knights a golden opportunity to take the lead when he recovered a muffed punt at the Raiders’ 14 yard line in the waning moments of the third quarter. But three plays later, Central defensive tackle Milton Rhoden stood King up, stripped him of the ball and recovered the fumble to preserve the visitors’ lead.
As impressive as the Knights’ defense was, Glades Central’s was even better. The Raiders limited Oakleaf to just 18 yards of total offense and four first downs. King, who entered Friday’s context averaging 143.5 rushing yards per game, gained only 37 yards rushing—28 on one play—on 16 carries. The Raiders played seven men within three yards of the line of scrimmage, and frequently there were two white shirts with a hold of King’s jersey as he took a hand-off. Led by linebacker Maceo McClain, who had two sacks and two tackles for loss, the Raiders sacked Simmons five times for losses totaling 70 yards. Harassed virtually every time he dropped back to pass, the freshman completed only four of 17 throws, with one interception.
McClain squelched the Knights’ final legitimate chance to rally. On a third down from the Knights’ 33 yard line with 2:33 remaining, the rangy linebacker blitzed from the left side and hit Simmons in the chest, forcing a fumble that was recovered after a mad scramble by the Knights at their own 4 yard line.
“We have played with five different guys [on the offensive line] each week, so that is on me and the coaching staff,” said Reynolds on his offensive line’s struggles. “They have got some talent, and I think they will jell.”
The game did not have the makings of a defensive struggle at the outset. It took the Raiders just four plays to travel 58 yards for a score on their opening possession. On first play, Tracey found fellow junior Kamare Stephens up the right sideline for a 47 yard gain. Three plays later, the Raiders scored when Tracey hit Odieu Hilaire in the end zone from four yards out. Oakleaf blocked the extra point attempt after the first score.
Tracey, who was the offensive star of the game, hooked up with Kamare Stephens on a slant pattern for a 40 yard score early in the second quarter. Tracey finished with 17 completions in 33 attempts for 267 yards. Stephens led all receivers with five catches for 120 yards.
“We still have every chance to win our district,” said Steve Reynolds. “The big part is controlling what we can control—attitude and effort.”