MACCLENNY - After a topsy-turvy 48 minutes of football against one of northeast Florida’s strongest programs, Oakleaf High football coach Marcus Miller was emotionally spent when asked to evaluate his Knights’ efforts in the 25-22 loss on Friday in Baker County.
“Seven turnovers, period,” said Miller, in his first year as head coach for Oakleaf. “Seven turnovers, seven turnovers.”
Oakleaf (1-1) vs. Hollis Christian Academy (0-2)
In a game that should be a breather, Oakleaf will host Hollis Christian Academy of Jacksonville, a Freelance school with losses of 28-18 to North Florida Educational Institute; coached by former Orange Park and St. Johns Country Day School coach Rodney Dubose, wno left Westside High, and unbeaten (2-0) Rocky Bayou Christian, 23-0. Rocky Bayou, in 2013, was a North Florida Football Conference championship winner over St. Johns Country Day School.
Oakleaf can heal some bodies and retool as their schedule goes gauntlet; four unbeaten teams in four games, after Hollis with Fleming Island (2-0), Tallahassee Chiles (0-2), Creekside (2-0) and Buchholz (2-0) to follow with Class 1A powerhouse Madison County (2-0) on October 21.
Seven seconds into the game
Against Baker County, the first miscue happened just seven seconds into the game with Oakleaf opening at their own 30 and quarterback Drew Ammon looking for wide receiver Carlos Witherup in the Baker County red zone only to have Wildcat safety (and quarterback) Davion Dean step in front of Witherup to reverse the Oakleaf scoring attempt.
Late in the fourth quarter, with just 10 seconds on the clock, Ammon had the Knights’ at midfield with a look to swiping the game on fourth and five after two shots to wide receiver Taylor Bradshaw. A plunge from running back Devin Outlaw breathed life into the upset opportunity with now three seconds on the clock and the Wildcat defense on its heels.
Set up in the shotgun, Baker County’s defense, knowing Ammon would be hoisting a Hail Mary attempt, sent nearly the entire front seven on a pass rush to eventually corral Ammon on the run to end the game.
Oakleaf defensive back Drake Stubbs sniffed out a jet sweep and put Baker County back to their own seven before the Wildcats took a swing pass the distance for a score with a penalty flag for a chop block bringing the ball back to Wildcat territory with still just 54 seconds off the game clock.
A punt to midfield gave Oakleaf their second start with Ammon finding Witherup on his own swing pass that got zero yards but a 15 yard flag against Oakleaf giving Ammon a first and 20 to go situation.
Ammon and Outlaw, on second and three near the Wildcat 28, tried to hit Witherup again streaking into the end zone only to have Dean snag his second centerfield interception to thwart the drive.
Oakleaf would strike paydirt first after the entertaining first period action with Ammon running left side to the Baker County two yard line before Outlaw powered in behind Chase Johnson and Kyland Armstrong to put Oakleaf up 7-0 at 4:34 in first quarter.
Oakleaf’s defense held on Baker County’s ensuing drive to force a 37 yard field goal to a 7-3 lead with a minute left in the first quarter.
Another flag would force an Ammon punt from the Oakleaf goal line to put the Wildcats at their own 42 to start the second quarter.
Oakleaf defensive tackle Prince Savea and defensive end Braden Cole kept the pressure on the Wildcat offense with an eventual punt from the Wildcat 32 only to have Oakleaf muff the punt to give Baker County possession at the Knights’ 14 yard line.
Baker County would get a first at the one before Dean sliced in with nine minutes to halftime to put Baker County up 9-7 with a missed PAT kick.
Oakleaf would take just two minutes to get to the Wildcat seven yard line before Outlaw whipped in on a sweep to put the Knights’ up 14-9. A post pass to Bradshaw for 36 yards and a sideline pass for another 12 put Oakleaf in scoring position with Outlaw blasting to the eight on a draw play before the score at 6:54.
After a defensive stop, Ammon got hit with his third interception trying to hit Bradshaw but throwing low.
Baker County would get an offsides flag to continue a drive at midfield, but the Oakleaf defense would get a fourth down penalty to give Ammon the ball at the Oakleaf 20 with 1:29 to half time.
Outlaw would break a 30 yard draw play to midfield with five seconds to go. Ammon fled the pocket with two penalty flags behind him with one an unsportsman, the other against Baker County to end the half.
“I don’t think we need to change too much because we moved the ball, but three turnovers doesn’t help,” said Miller, at halftime. “That second interception in the end zone hurt us. With the muffed punt, we just got to take care of the football better.”
Stubbs and Savea again made strong defensive plays and an illegal block flag forced a first and 14 for Baker County with the Wildcats passing to the Knights’ 11 yard line then the five with a third and and three with 7:57 in the third.
Oakleaf linebacker Dajon Brown got a sack to put Baker County at fourth and seven with the Oakleaf band playing loudly as the Wildcats ended the drive with an incomplete pass.
Thank you Band.
Ammon would punt from the Knights’ four to give Baker County field position at midfield with 5:47 to go in the third.
Stubbs again came big on an open field tackle to keep a possible gamebreaker to just a nine yard gain.
With the band again rocking the sideline, Oakleaf defensive back Corey Washington emerged with a fumble after a scramble near the Oakleaf five yard line to put Ammon back on the field.
Thank you Band.
With the Baker County band attempting their own musical distractions, Miller tried to play it safe in the shadow of the endzone with Ammon under center with a Wing-T looking backfield behind him attempting to push their way to open waters.
On third and five, Outlaw got popped at the line of scrimmage and coughed up the ball at 1:53 in the third putting Baker County at the Oakleaf six yard line.
Now, the Oakleaf band ramped up their big brass sound, only to have Baker County score off a dive play to put the Wildcats up 15-14; 16-14 with the PAT.
The fourth quarter started with Oakleaf at the Knights’ 32 yard line with a third and two before Outlaw blasted for the first down.
Ammon would break for 30, but had it erased with a penalty flag.
At 8:06 to go, Baker County hit a 47 yard field goal to up the score to 19-14.
Oakleaf had 5:04 left from a start after a punt at the Knights’ 20 yard line with Baker County’s band hitting some Jimi Hendrix on loud speaker to comfort the Knights.
Ammon found Bradshaw for a 30 yard gain to midfield with 4:26, but Baker County intercepted the next pass to submarine the effort.
With 3:01 left and a Baker County punt being pushed with a 15 yard flag put Oakleaf at the Knights’ 40 yard line to start the upset in the making with the first snap sailing over Ammon.
Outlaw shredded to the Wildcat 42 with 2:19 followed by a fumble to the Wildcats.
On the first play at their 30, Oakleaf linebacker Jaiden Hicks missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage that paved the way for a 70 yard score for Baker County running back Cam Taylor to put Baker County up 25-14 with a missed PAT.
With 1:16 to go, Oakleaf had one shot to get one more score with a possible miracle finish as Ammon threw to Jaylin Martin on a possible Hook N Ladder, but Martin dropped the ball.
A late hit on an Ammon scramble put Oakleaf at midfield with 1:01 to go before Bradshaw got a pass to the Wildcat 22.
Ammon sprinted right to paydirt with twist near the four yard line into the end zone gaming the score 25-20 with less than a minute. Martin mishandled the two-pointer pass in the end zone that could have put Ammon, an Oakleaf soccer standout, as a possible field goal winner.
With 27 seconds on the clock, Oakleaf got one more breath with a kickoff fumble recovery.
Ammon set up at the 40 for the game finish with Martin getting redemption with two catches to the Wildcat 45 yard line.
With 10 seconds to go, fourth and five at the 45, Outlaw got the first down yardage for one more shot for the miracle. Sack.