By Dave Tomczak
EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – The ground game is rolling for Oakridge, and on Friday it rocked Grant.
The win sets Oakridge up with a regional matchup on the road next week against 10-1 Saginaw Swan Valley. The Vikings advanced after defeating Carrollton 42-7 on Friday.
With an opening drive that took 10 plays and 6:10 off the clock, the Eagles struck first when Alex Shoop scored from three yards out.
After Grant went three-and-out, Shoop returned the ensuing punt back 30 yards to midfield. Four plays later, Jaxon Fri’s 30-yard field goal gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead.
That proved more than enough for an Oakridge defense that allowed the Tigers only 103 total yards, 34 of which came on a long pass late in the fourth quarter.
“I think we played really, really well defensively tonight,” Eagles Coach Cary Harger said. “We were worried about their spread packages and their big guys up front, but we have a good, quick defensive front and we practiced well against what we thought we’d see from them.”
Trailing by 10 at the start of the second quarter, Grant gambled at its own 47 on fourth down and converted.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, quarterback Trent Throop was intercepted on the next play by Blake Masterman, whose return, coupled with a face mask penalty, gave the Eagles the ball at the Grant 32.
Two plays later, quarterback Koleman Wall rolled to his right and ran untouched for a 27-yard TD, giving Oakridge a 17-0 lead just 1:26 into the second quarter.
Grant’s first trip to the district finals in school history was off to a bad start, and it only got worse on its next two possessions.
A Tiger punt that went four yards set Oakridge up at the Grant 17 and ended with a 1-yard TD run by Masterman.
Then, facing a fourth-and-10 on the Eagles’ 30, Throop was sacked for a 4-yard loss by Oakridge nose tackle Brandon Wilde. Four plays later, Wall connected with Leroy Quinn for a 59-yard touchdown strike, giving Oakridge a 31-0 cushion with 1:43 left in the first half.
“We knew (Throop) was a dual threat and that we’d have to stop both,” Wilde said. “And for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been trying really hard to get a shutout.”
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Eagles defense stopped Grant on fourth down yet again, this time on the Tigers’ own 44. Seven plays later, Wall hit Spencer Speers for a two-yard TD pass and Oakridge led 38-0.
Oakridge improved to 9-2 with the win, and finished the game with 313 total yards.
Quinn led the offense with 102 rushing yards on 11 attempts and Masterman had 55 yards. Wall was 2-for-3 passing for 61 yards.
Wilde finished the game with seven tackles, two for losses, and a sack.
Throop had 64 passing yards to lead Grant, connecting on 10 of 16 attempts. Gabe Castro led the Tiger defense with nine tackles and T.J. Railling added eight.