Here comes Oscar Smith kicker Gary Parker on a fake FG (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
The Oscar Smith defense holds off Massaponax to secure a state championship berth
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Both Massaponax and Oscar Smith are used to rolling up points on their opponents. Saturday’s battle of wills was won by the defenses.
All of the scoring took place in the first half.
Massaponax drew first blood after forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs. The Panthers’ offense struggled on their first drive, but broke through when Smith loaded the box on fourth down only to have tight end Nathaniel Quance break lose and catch a Luke Morley toss that floated over his head, good for a 45-yard touchdown with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
Smith answered quickly, driving most of the length of the field to finish out the first quarter, then punching in a score at the 11:20 mark of the second quarter on a 1-yd Ethan Vasko keeper.
Oscar Smith gained some momentum as the second quarter wore on, shutting down the Massaponax option attack and converting on a Sherrod Covil 1-yard run to take their first lead of the game at 14-7.
The Panthers found good fortune with a few timely penalties and fourth down conversions to knot the game at 14. With 2:01 left in the half, facing fourth and goal from the three, Elijah Christopher pushed across the goal line with a second effort and help from his linemen.
Instead of standing pat, Oscar Smith head coach called for a big play and Vasko executed on a pass to Amonte Jones as he outraced a Massaponax defensive back to haul in the catch and race for a 59-yard touchdown.
Massaponax didn’t have a big play to answer that and went into halftime trailing 21-14, but set to receive the second-half kickoff.
At the break, it appears that both teams made the defensive adjustments necessary to stifle their opponent.
Both teams moved the ball offensively and both teams took risks on fourth down. One of the highlights of the third quarter came when Oscar Smith reached the red zone, but was pushed back. On fourth and long, the Tigers set up for a field goal only to trick the Panthers with a classic fake that had kicker Gary Parker run the ball down the home sideline for a first down. The drive ended on fourth down inside the Massaponax ten, but the Tigers had them pinned in.
2:00 3Q: FAKE FG! Oscar Smith 21, Massaponax 14 pic.twitter.com/acnlBA4uib
— recruit757 (@Recruit757) April 24, 2021
Still at 21-14, the game came down to the final seconds. Massaponax burned all of their timeouts on a calculated final drive that had them set up for fourth and long from the Tiger 22 with nine second left. In earlier plays on that drive, a double reverse had failed. A halfback pass had failed. For the final play, Morley was under pressure and floated a duck that was caught by Oscar Smith’s Taeron Richardson. Richardson raced up from the end zone to snag the ball, then ran down the Massaponax sideline before being knocked out of bounds. That play ran out the clock and the Tigers celebrated their win.
“I’ve got to give it to my coaches. They’ve been here before. They told me to back up, just read and execute. If you see the ball, go get the ball,” Richardson said. “I really didn’t have to run it out, but I felt so excited. We’re going back to states. We’re going to win it this year.”
The Tigers (8-0) will face South County (9-0) for the second season in a row, this time on their home field at Oscar Smith High School. South County led James Madison only to lose the lead late in the fourth quarter, then score a touchdown and convert the two-pointer to win their semifinal game 29-22 on Saturday.
In the 2019 state championship game, held at Hampton University’s Armstrong Stadium, the Stallions held on for a 14-13 state championship win against Oscar Smith. The time for Saturday’s state title game is yet to be confirmed.
“I couldn’t be happier for these guys; answering to adversity. I told them, we have to find our Beowulf; somebody who’s going to bring the best out of us,” Oscar Smith head coach Chris Scott stated after the win. “(Massaponax) showed up. They’re well-coached. They made some big plays and we battled. Those are the games you want to be in to find out who we are. There were mistakes made but we kept battling all through it, and I’m super proud of them.”
FINAL: Oscar Smith 21, Massaponax 14
– Andy Hilton
Massaponax 7 7 0 0 – 14
Oscar Smith 0 21 0 0 – 21
M – Quance 41 pass from Morley (Hudson kick)
OS – Vasko 1 run (Parker kick)
OS – Covil 1 run (Parker kick)
M – Christopher 3 run (Hudson kick)
OS – Amonte Jones 59 pass from Vasko (Parker kick)