By Justin Haggerty
EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – When Oakridge coach Cary Harger scheduled defending state champions as opponents for the first two weeks of the season, he knew his team would be tested.
While the Eagles played Loyola tough for three quarters, the Bulldogs proved to be too much for Oakridge and left Muskegon with a 42-13 victory.
“They were big, they were physical, hard to bring down, obviously,” said Harger, whose team dropped to 1-1 with a West Michigan Conference game at North Muskegon looming next week. “We missed a lot of tackles.”
Oakridge jumped out to an early lead, opening the game with a 14-play, 70-yard drive that was capped with a Brady Luttrull six yard pass to James Cooper III. It was Luttrull and Cooper’s seventh touchdown connection already this season.
Near the end of the first quarter, Luttrull was intercepted near midfield by Loyola’s Traveon Vaughn. The ensuing drive lasted just six plays and ended with a direct snap to running back Joshua Stewart, who muscled through the tackles for an eight yard touchdown, tying the score at 7-7.
Vaughn scampered 86 yards down the left sideline to give Loyola the lead with 6:49 to play in the half.
But just two minutes later, Luttrull connected with Hunter Drummond for a two-yard touchdown pass. The PAT attempt was mishandled and the Eagles trailed 14-13 at halftime.
Stewart scored on a 10-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, giving Loyola a 20-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
That was when the Eagles’ fortunes took a turn for the worse.
Just 57 seconds into the fourth, Stewart scored another touchdown, capping a 15-play 85-yard drive, to put the Bulldogs up 28-13.
Oakridge fumbled the ball on the first play of its next possession, and Loyola’s Malcolm Mayes picked it up and ran 53 yards to put the Bulldogs up 35-13.
Oakridge fumbled again on the first play of its next possession, and Loyola needed just three plays to go 38 yards for the touchdown. Freshman running back Amir Braken plunged in from one yard out to cap the scoring.
In the end, Oakridge was haunted by four turnovers – two lost fumbles and two interceptions.
“Our kids pride themselves on being Oakridge tough,” Harger said. “Our kids showed that again tonight, regardless of the score, they tried to stay in the game and tried to fight back.
“Unfortunately, with some of that extra effort, I think it just caused a couple mistakes.”