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Playoff football is usually about running the football and playing solid defense.
Oliver Springs (7-4) excelled in both of those areas Friday night and the result was a 26-14 victory at Rockwood (7-4) in the first round of the TSSAA Class AA playoffs.
“We told our team all week this game would be won by the did that had the most yards rushing,” Oliver Springs head coach Wiley Brackett said. “Our offensive linemen showed up with a chip on their shoulder and we challenged our linemen and backs to run hard between the tackles.”
The result of that challenge was 250 yards rushing with QB Garrett Miller and RB Jordan Romero each rushing for more than 100 yards. Miller had 155 yards and 2 TDs on 17 carries while Romero added 101 yards on 20 carries. Both backs also topped 1,000 yards on the season with their performance.
Miller also completed 8 of 14 passes for 167 yards and 2 TDs to give the Bobcats a total of 417 yards of total offense.
“They've got a good football team and we knew coming in their quarterback and running back were going to be tough,” Rockwood head coach John Webb said. “They did a good job and we didn't tackle well. They're capable of making a good run this year.”
Oliver Springs' defense also stepped up their performance. In last week's game against Clay County, the Bobcats allowed almost 300 yards passing, but Rockwood completed just 6of 23 passes on the night and had just 187 yards of total offense.
“I guess they finally got tired of us griping at them,” Brackett said. “Coach Ronnie (Brown) really challenged the defense this week ad they proved they could play tonight.”
Friday's game opened with both offenses missing chances to score.
The Bobcats opened the game by marching inside the Tigers 10 yard line and even scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run from Romero, but the points were taken off the board thanks to a penalty then the drive ended four plays later on downs.
It was also close but no cigar for Rockwood on their first drive as they march 79 yards in 15 plays, but the Tigers fumbled the ball away on fourth-and-goal at the 3.
Oliver Springs took the lead for good on their next drive as they put together a 17-play, 92-yard scoring drive. Miller capped the drive with a 4-yard run to make the score 7-0 with 6:53 left in the first half.
The Bobcats added to their lead on the next drive, but it didn't take as long as Miller capped a 3-play, 58-yard drive with a perfectly executed 57-yard screen pass to Ray Efferson.
“That was a great call,” Miller said. “They were blitzing their linebackers and that left the outside open. I had enough time to get it out there and Ray made a great play.”
Oliver Springs' conversion attempt was no good, leaving the score 13-0 with 3:34 left in the first half.
The Bobcats took that lead into halftime and they took complete control of the game on their first drive of the second half.
After forcing a three-and-out on defense, Oliver Springs' offense put together a 4-play, 67-yard drive that ended in a 40-yard pass from Miller to freshman Austin West that made the score 20-0 with 8:50 left in the third period.
“They were in bump-and-run coverage and they didn't have a safety over the top,” Miller said. “Austin's just a freshman, but he's got some wheels and I thought he could beat his man right there.”
Rockwood, however, didn't go away without a fight as the Tigers came right back with a 5-play, 57-yard scoring drive.
Collin Smith opened the drive wit a 34-yard run and Everett Campbell ended the drive with a 1-yard run to pull the Tigers to within 20-7 with 6:40 left in the third period.
Rockwood pulled even closer on their next possession. Following a Bobcat three-and-out, the Tigers drove 44 yards 10 plays with the scoring play coming on a 6-yard pass from Lucas Jolley to Josh Boles.
After the PAT, Rockwood trailed 20-14 with 11:51 left in the game.
Rockwood had all the momentum at this point, but that momentum didn't last long as on third-and-two from their own 43 on their next drive, Miller made the play of the game as he somehow made his way through a wall of defenders for a 57-yard scoring run that made the score 26-14 with 10:08 left to play.
“I just followed by blockers and when I saw the seem I hit it. The receivers did a great job of blocking down field,” Miller said.
“That play was huge,” Brackett added. “I told them we needed a first down there, but Garrett kept breaking tackles and jumping over people.”
Oliver Springs' 2-point pass was no good.
Rockwood had the ball two times after Miller's run, but the Tigers couldn't mount a drive as Oliver Springs advanced to next week's second round of the TSSAA playoffs and a rematch with Wartburg. The Bobcats defeated the Bulldogs, 32-27, in week 9 of the regular season.
“Wartburg's an outstanding team and I think we're evenly matched,” Brackett said. “We've just got to go out and play hard.”
“It's always hard to beat a team twice in a season,” Miller added. “We're going to have to play better that we did two weeks ago. We have to go out and practice hard then fight had Friday night.”
Despite the loss, Coach Webb was still proud of his squad that finished the season with seven wins and a district championship.
“We obviously didn't win this one, but I am still very proud of this team,” Webb said. “I've never seen the amount of injuries that we had to deal with this season, but these guys kept fighting. They won a district championship this year and that hasn't happened around here since 1992.”
Oliver Springs Statistics
Rushing- Miller 17-155 with 2 TDs, Romero 20-101, West 5-11, Team 3-(-17).
Passing- Miller 8-14 for 167 yards with 2 TDs.
Receiving- Efferson 1-57 with 1 TD, West 3-69 with 1 TD, Nelson 2-14, Simms 1-19, Crisp 1-8.
Rushing- Campbell 7-24 with 1 TD, Jolley 7-(-10), Smith 12-77, Headrick 4-21, Team 2-(-7).
Passing- Jolley 5-22 for 56 yards with 1 TD, Headrick 1-1 for 26 yards.
Receiving- Webster 1-26, Freels 1-14, Boles 2-22 with 1 TD, Smith 1-3, Kirkland 1-17.