Strong third quarter lifts Oak Mountain to rivalry win at Chelsea

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CHELSEA – What looked to be a game going down to the wire in a tie at the half turned into a route thanks to a dominant second half from the Oak Mountain Eagles in a season-opening win against Chelsea.

The Eagles came out of a 13-13 tie at the break and scored 33 points in the third quarter alone to pull away for a 46-19 victory against their rivals to open the season 1-0.

“We decided to play. We decided to play. It was there the whole time, we just had to execute and take advantage of it, and that’s what we did in the second half,” Oak Mountain head coach Tyler Crane said after the win. “I told them, the first of the week here, there is a reason I came to Oak Mountain—because it’s special. And dadgummit, it’s special. These kids did everything we asked them to do tonight, and they showed they can do anything anybody else can.”

Following a back-and-forth battle in the first half that saw Oak Mountain score 13 out of the gate and Chelsea follow with 13 unanswered to end the half, the Eagles came out determined in the third quarter.

They scored four touchdowns in their first six plays of the third quarter and scored five total in the period to post 33 points and storm in front 40-13.

On Oak Mountain’s first play of the second half, Evan Smith went 47 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-13. That was followed by a 38-yard touchdown run from CJ Branson, a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Hammett and a 69-yard touchdown run from Smith.

Then, with 59 seconds left in the third quarter, Branson added another touchdown on a 30-yard run to make it 46-13.

In addition to the offense playing well, the defense forced turnovers, goth three-and-outs and put the offense in great situations to have a chance at making plays.

“We didn’t want to let them score. We told them at halftime, ‘They don’t score again.’ They answered the bell. Our guys came out with energy and excitement and got after it.”

Oak Mountain’s new offense got off to a flawless start in the first half as well, converting on the team’s first two drives of the game.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Eagles opened the game with a 10-play 57-yard drive to strike first.

Running back Trey Vassell had carries of 3, 3, 6 and 11 yards on the drive, while Chelsea penalties helped the Eagles drive into a first-and-goal situation from the 9-yard line.

Oak Mountain did face some adversity on the drive, however, eventually going backward to force third-and-goal from the 24-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Smith just missed receiver Cade George for an open touchdown pass.

One play later, however, the Eagles ran the same play and George was wide open again. This time, the two connected on fourth-and-goal with a 24-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead with 7:54 left in the opening quarter.

The defense then gave it right back to Oak Mountain’s offense with a deflected pass and interception.

The Eagles were able to convert a third-and-15 on the drive on a 26-yard run from Smith, before a late hit added on 15 more yards.

Smith then hit Hammett for a 28-yard pass to set up first-and-goal once again. Three plays later, Vasell scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0 with 3:21 to play in the opening quarter following a failed 2-point attempt.

The Hornets, however, quickly flipped the momentum in their favor.

After he dropped two passes deep down the field in the previous two drives, Thomas Simpson more than made up for it.

A 52-yard catch on the next offensive possession set up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Garrison to Cooper Griffin to cut the deficit to 13-7 in the first seven seconds of the second quarter.

Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Chelsea recovered a fumble and got the ball right back in great field position.

On the fourth play of the drive, Garrison threw a fade to the back left corner of the end zone and Simpson leapt up, and caught the ball as he was falling backward into the back of the end zone.

The Hornets had the extra point blocked, which led to a 13-13 game.

That was followed by a defensive battle for the remainder of the half with neither team finding the end zone again.

The Eagles, however, were the team that made the necessary adjustments at the half.

Evan Smith led Oak Mountain with 132 rushing yards on four carries with two touchdowns, while he added 54 yards and one touchdown passing. Branson finished with 73 yards on three carries with two touchdowns, while Hammett had 54 yards receiving with a touchdown.

“It’s huge. It’s so exciting. We’re just scratching the potential,” Crane said of the win. “The sky is the limit for these guys if they just show up and work every day.”

Chelsea was led by Garrison with 309 yards and two touchdowns passing, while Simpson had 124 yards and one touchdown and Griffin added 106 yards with one touchdown.