Lights out: Oak Mountain picks up season-opening win against Chelsea

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

NORTH SHELBY – The Oak Mountain Eagles got off to a fast start, made it through a power outage and beat Chelsea for the fourth year in a row at Heardmont Park on Friday, Aug. 21, by a final score of 38-2 to start the 2020 high school football season 1-0.

The win came on the back of three forced turnovers turned into points and three rushing touchdowns from Judah Tait, but all head coach Cris Bell could focus on was that his team got to play football.

“I thought our kids played hard and I thought their kids played hard,” Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell said after the game. “But more than anything, it was good to get out and play a football game. I just pray we get to keep doing it.”

Oak Mountain looked like an experienced team early in the game and came out strong on both sides of the ball in the opening half.

After a quick three-and-out defensively, the Eagles put together a quick opening drive on offense thanks to a roughing the passer personal foul following an 8-yard pass to Noah Young from Evan Smith.

That put the Eagles inside the 20-yard line, and following a 14-yad run from Cade George, Tait capped off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run for his first score to put his team on top 7-0 less than five minutes into the game.

That’s when Zach Taylor made his first of two picks on the night.

On what was one of Chelsea’s most successful drives—seven plays that got the Hornets inside the 30-yard line—Taylor picked off a Nic Neaves pass after the Chelsea quarterback was hit mid throw.

Oak Mountain took over at its own 20-yard line, but the Eagles made quick work once again on offense. After five big plays, Smith took the sixth snap of the drive from the 15-yard line and rolled out to his right where he found George in tight coverage in the end zone.

George, however, hauled in the catch with a defender draped on his back to add another touchdown and put the Eagles on top 14-0 with 1:25 left in the opening quarter.

Chelsea flipped the field position shortly after, but Taylor then grabbed his second pick of the night shortly after, and again, Oak Mountain capitalized.

The Eagles went on a four-minute drive with several hard-nosed runs capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run from Smith to put the Eagles on top 22-0 following a 2-point conversion from Titus Tucker.

Then, it got eerie.

With 1:44 left in the half, the lights went out, which led to a 10-minute delay.

After fans turned on their cell phones and chanted for them to return to action, the lights came back on and so did Oak Mountain’s defense.

This time Chase Schwender picked up the interception and returned it 80 yards to the 1-yard line with one second left, which led to a 20-yard field goal from Hogan Morton to put the Eagles on top 25-0 at the break.

“That interception was huge,” Bell said about his team’s response to the light delay. “We got fortunate to have a second left and put points on the board.

Oddly enough, the second half started with a safety after a snap over the head of Neaves and ended with a safety as the final score, which also accounted for Chelsea’s only points when a snap late in the game escaped the punter and went out of the end zone.

In-between that, Oak Mountain scored 11 more points behind a Morton field goal from 19 yards out and a 41-yard touchdown run from Tait to create the final score of 38-2.

“Much better this year than we were last year at running the football against these guys,” Bell said. “There are still some things we have to clean up, but we’re making progress. I like where we are at this point, but we have to continue to get better.”

Smith finished 5-for-9 with 82 yards passing and a touchdown, while Tait totaled 96 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.

See all our photos and purchase images from the game at www.shelbycountyphotos.com