Comeback kids: Oak Mountain off to 2nd straight 4-0 start

Published 11:46 pm Friday, September 10, 2021

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By GRAHAM BROOKS | Special to the Reporter

VESTAVIA HILLS — When it came time to step up and makes plays in the second half, the Oak Mountain Eagles once again delivered and erased a four-point halftime deficit on its way to a 24-14 road victory at Vestavia Hills on Friday, Sept. 10 to remain unbeaten.

Oak Mountain senior quarterback Evan Smith accounted for all three Oak Mountain touchdowns; two through the air and one on the ground as he continued to show why he’s so dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Smith finished the night 11-of-19 for 133 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. On the ground he carried the ball 18 times for 76 yards and a touchdown.

“Evan is a great player and he’s going to make plays because he’s too athletic not to but, we’ve got to do a better job of putting him in good positions,” Oak Mountain head coach Tyler Crane said. “We don’t need to put everything on his shoulders. We have to have guys step up and make plays but at the end of the day I’ll take it.”

On the other side of the ball, Oak Mountain’s defense held the Rebels scoreless in the second half forcing numerous turnovers on downs.

Despite the dominate second-half effort, the Eagles still had to convert numerous fourth downs themselves and also committed a number of penalties at times.

“I told them we were about to get in a dog fight, and they didn’t believe me,” Crane said. “I don’t want to live like that, we have got to get better on offense, and we have to execute better. Credit to Vestavia because they have a really good defense but we’ve got to execute better.”

In the first quarter, Oak Mountain struck first as Smith made an incredible play on fourth-and-18 to avoid defenders and scamper 28 yards for the touchdown to put the Eagles up 7-0.

The second quarter, however, belonged to Vestavia, as the Rebels scored all 14 of their points in that timeframe.

The Rebels’ first touchdown came on a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mitchell Towns to Keown Richardson to tie the game 7-7.

After Oak Mountain tacked on a field goal, Vestavia attempted to tie or take the lead near the end of the first half and struck for a big play with one second remaining.

After converting a fourth-and-6, Towns connected with wide receiver Max Stewart, who went up and over two Oak Mountain defenders to pull in the 17-yard touchdown and give Vestavia a 14-10 halftime lead.

Towns finished the game 17-of-33 for 248 yards and the two touchdowns.

Coming out of halftime, Crane said Oak Mountain didn’t make many changes defensively but emphasized the need to limit big plays and to execute better. That resulted in a shutout in the final 24 minutes, as the Eagles held Vestavia to just 3-of-8 on fourth down conversions.

Despite neither team scoring in the third quarter, Oak Mountain took control early in the fourth quarter as Smith rolled to the right on third-and-goal and threw a dart to Ethan Hammett for a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 17-14 lead.

The final dagger came midway through the fourth quarter when Smith once again helped Oak Mountain convert in a crucial fourth down spot.

On fourth-and-6, Smith scrambled and threw a 22-yard touchdown back toward the middle of the field as wide receiver Joseph Regan went up and made a great catch to help extend Oak Mountain’s lead to 24-14.

“We just executed and that was the difference,” Crane said. “Every week I tell everybody the same thing, and it’s all about executing. It’s not the X’s and O’s it’s executing.”

The Eagles have now outscored opponents 78-6 in the second half of games this season.

With the win Oak Mountain improved to 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in Class 7A Region 3 for the second year in a row and second time in school history.

The Eagles will now have a huge home matchup with Hoover on Friday, Sept. 17 to try and keep the winning streak alive.