Rebels down Eagles in second half

Published 12:42 am Saturday, October 4, 2008

Junior Mike Brown and his Vestavia Hills teammates closed their eyes, visualizing the second half at head coach Buddy Anderson’s request.

Whatever they imagined worked, as Brown ran for two second-half touchdowns and Vestavia beat Oak Mountain 28-7.

“[Anderson] hollered at us. He got on our behinds,” Brown said of the halftime talk. “He told us, ‘Close your eyes and think of what the score is at the end of the game. What do you want the score to be?’ We took that and went with it.”

Vestavia overwhelmed Oak Mountain’s offense in the second half after a 7-7 halftime score. Senior quarterback Drew McKnight and junior running back Ross Ware rushed for a combined 100 yards in the first half and McKnight threw for 94 more, but the Rebel defense held the Eagles to one first down in the third quarter.

Brown ran through an injury-plagued Oak Mountain defense on Vestavia’s first drive after halftime, capping it with an 11-yard touchdown that put the Rebels up 14-7. Junior quarterback Ryan Howard found Allen Dye for a 38-yard touchdown on Vestavia’s next possession and Oak Mountain trailed 21-7 with 2:27 left in the third quarter. The emotion vanished from Oak Mountain’s sideline soon after.

“They didn’t change anything defensively except they came out and got after us a lot better,” Oak Mountain head coach Jerry Hood said. “Some of the things we connected on in the first half we didn’t in the second. We started two or three times inside the 20 in the second half and then defensively we could not stop them. We could not tackle well. That was disappointing to see. Coupled with their long drives and that kind of thing, it just takes a little wind out of you.”

Baxter Billingsley speared McKnight’s neck and shoulder into the ground two plays after Dye’s touchdown. McKnight stayed down, delaying the game as the Eagles took a knee a few yards from their quarterback and prayed.

The training staff originally feared McKnight had a stinger, but he later returned to the game. The quarterback felt tingling in his right arm, rubbed his neck gingerly and turned his bottom lip inside out to reveal blood. With backup Paul Angel already injured, Oak Mountain (1-5, 1-5) turned to 5-7 sophomore receiver Trey Page at quarterback before McKnight returned.

“Drew is definitely the leader of our team. He’s the heart and soul, so of course it scared us, but he’s a warrior, he came back in and he did work,” said junior tight end Davis Dudchock, who was in his second game back from injury.

McKnight finished 20-of-26 for 182 yards, finding Dudchock seven times for 99 yards. The quarterback ran 7 yards for Oak Mountain’s only touchdown in the second quarter but also threw an interception that set up Vestavia’s first touchdown.

Howard threw nine passes for the Rebels, who relied on their offensive line to run up the middle. Brown rushed 24 times for 147 yards and three touchdowns, giving him nine on the year.

“It feels good, but you always want more. You want to keep driving,” Brown said. “We grew up against Mountain Brook in the second half last week and we just had to go out there and prove it. We stabbed ourselves in the foot in the first half. We just had to go out there and show that we are grown up and ready to get better.”

Vestavia (4-2, 4-1) plays at Spain Park next week and Oak Mountain hosts Buckhorn for homecoming.

“It was a tough night,” Hood said. “The good thing about this bunch is they have a positive attitude and their work habits are good. I don’t question their character.”