Oak Mountain downs James Clemens in miraculous comeback

Oak Mountain's Harold Shader breaks away from the James Clemens defense as teammates celebrate in a comeback win in the first round of the AHSAA Class 7A playoffs. (Contributed/Barry W. Clemmons)

Oak Mountain’s Harold Shader breaks away from the James Clemens defense as teammates celebrate in a comeback win in the first round of the AHSAA Class 7A playoffs. (Contributed/Barry W. Clemmons)

By NEAL EMBRY/For the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY — The Oak Mountain Eagles continue to find ways to win.  In the first-round of the 7A playoffs, the Eagles found themselves down 35-13 to James Clemens at halftime.

When the final whistle blew, however, the scoreboard read Eagles 60, Jets 43, and Oak Mountain had completed an improbable comeback.

Early on, the Eagles struggled defensively, giving up several big plays, including two touchdown passes of more than 80 yards from Jets quarterback Heath Burchfield, who finished with 360 yards and four touchdowns.

Going into the locker room, the Jets appeared to be in control.  But as the second half got underway, the home team quickly took control back.

After taking the second half kickoff to the Jets 47-yard line, Warren Shader found Daniel Salchert for a 53-yard touchdown pass.

The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by James Clemens, picked up by Oak Mountain, and led to another Warren Shader touchdown, this time on a 31-yard run.  Shader finished the night with 163 rushing yards and four total scores.

The Eagles forced one of Burchfield’s three second-half interceptions on the Jets first offensive drive.  After taking over at their opponent’s 18-yard line, Harold Shader cut the Jets lead to two with his second touchdown, but the two-point conversion failed.

Late in the third quarter, the Eagles faced a first and ten at their own 29-yard line, still down by two.

Harold Shader quickly changed that.  The senior running back took the ball up the middle, burst through the Jets defense, and 71 yards later, celebrated a touchdown.

The Jets were hurt by four second-half turnovers and numerous penalties.  A fumble cut their next drive short, and the Eagles capitalized to go up 46-35.

After cutting the lead to three, the Jets defense once again failed to stop Harold Shader.  With six minutes to play, Shader ran the ball 62 yards into the end zone.

In the last five minutes, the Eagles forced interceptions on the Jets last two offensive possessions, and Shader had his third touchdown run of over 60 yards to seal the 60-43 win.  Shader finished with 274 yards and five scores.

“We told them we had 24 minutes left, and we could use them however we chose.  They believed, and just battled, just a heck of a group,” Oak Mountain coach Cris Bell said.

The Eagles will play Gadsden City in the second round Friday, Nov. 14.