By Nate Thompson
Top to bottom, offensively and defensively, the Eagles shined, leading the way to an impressive 32-0 shutout victory over the Bluejays in the Division 5 playoffs.
Oakridge (9-1 overall), which captured a district championship a year ago, will have a chance to repeat the feat next week against Belding, which also advanced on Friday with a 50-32 drubbing of Howard City Tri-County.
Against Shepherd, it was running back Trever Jones and a dominant offensive line that sparked the Eagles. Jones, a junior, finished with huge numbers – 26 carries for 263 yards and four touchdowns. All four of his scores came in the first half, as Oakridge put the game away early.
“It’s kind of hard to summarize the type of runner he is,” Harger said of Jones. “He’s just a competitor. He’s a downhill runner, but he doesn’t really look for contact. But if someone is in his way, he’ll run through them. But he can be very shifty. He had a run tonight where he made about three different cuts. That totally surprised me.”
Oakridge had a 16-0 lead after one quarter on Jones’ 1- and 22-yard scoring runs and a pair of successful 2-point conversions.
Meanwhile, Oakridge’s defense was stifling, limiting the Bluejays to 143 yards of total offense throughout the contest.
“Our defensive front did a really good job, our linebackers were very solid and our secondary did a nice job in coverage,” Harger said. “We were able to get quite a bit of pressure on them on their passing plays, which was key.”
Oakridge had a pair of interceptions, snagged by Evan Miller and Matt Danicek.
The Eagles had two more successful scoring drives in the second quarter, finished off again by Jones, as he scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 3 yards.
Harger said quarterback Matt Danicek did a good job spreading the ball around in the pass game, as he completed 9-of-12 passes for 149 yards. Chris Knapp had two catches for 82 yards, which was boosted by a 78-yard reception.
Jones also led the Eagles’ defense with nine total tackles and a sack. Riley Bean and Kyle Weaver also had one tackle for loss apiece.
Harger will dive into the specifics of Belding this week, but his early assessment was they’re “a physical football team.” The Black Knights only loss was a Week 7 setback to Cadillac.
Fortunately, Oakridge will remain at home for their second-round matchup.