By Matt Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org
MIER — Just when the Alexandria football team had thought it got back into Friday’s sectional championship game at Oak Hill, the Eagle offense came up with a big drive and the defense came up with a huge stop.
After Alexandria took the opening possession of the second half and scored a touchdown to get within 20-14, Oak Hill scored 15 unanswered points en route to beating the Tigers 35-14 to win the Class 2A Sectional 36 championship on Friday night in Mier.
With win gave the Eagles their first sectional championship since 1996. Oak Hill had played in three sectional championship games since that time, but lost each contest.
“This is just unreal,” said Oak Hill senior Ethan Bowland, who scored two touchdowns in Friday’s win. “We had not won a sectional title since I was born.”
The win improved Oak Hill to 9-3, while Alexandria finished its season 8-4. Oak Hill will play in the regional on Friday at Tipton. The Class 2A, No. 7 ranked Blue Devils defeated Delphi 37-21 on Friday to win the Sectional 35 championship.
Oak Hill went into halftime with a 20-7 lead, but Alexandria took the first drive of the second half and went 72 yards in 11 plays, ending with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Blaize Kelly to Anthony Thomas on a third-and-5 play, brining the Tigers within 20-14.
The Eagles, however, responded with an eight-play, 59-yard drive of their own. A big 19-yard run from Zack Daniels gave Oak Hill a first-and-10 on the Tiger 24-yard line. Oak Hill drove the ball all the way down to the Alexandria 6-yard line, and on second down Mason Althouse scored, giving the Eagles a 27-14 lead with four minutes left in the quarter.
On the second play of Alexandria’s next possession, Daniels intercepted a Kelly pass, giving the Eagles the ball at the Tiger 28-yard line. Kelly threw two interceptions in the game.
“Our defense made them earn everything they got,” Oak Hill coach Bud Ozmun said. “Alexandria has some big play potential and they just have an outstanding quarterback. Our front guys and our linebackers just did a great job of putting pressure on their quarterback.”
Following the Daniels’ interception, the Eagle offense went back to work. All on the ground, Oak Hill went on a seven-play drive capped by Bowland’s 5-yard touchdown run — his second of the game. Bowland then ran in the two-point conversion and Oak Hill had a 35-14 lead with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
On Alexandria’s next possession, the Tigers drove the ball all the way to the Eagle 3-yard line, but Evan Hodges was stopped for a one-yard gain on a fourth-and-2 play. Oak Hill then took over and ran the clock out.
“We changed our defensive scheme this week and went to more of a pass defense,” Bowland said. “We did a good job of switching up our defense between a man and a zone and kept them on their heels.”
Alexandria did most of his offense in the air, while Oak Hill went to the ground.
Kelly finished the game 19-for-34 for 236 yards and one touchdown.
Oak Hill finished with 342 rushing yards while attempting only one pass. Nick McPike had 24 carries for 123 yards. Daniels had 17 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown. Bowland had 12 carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
“We knew we would have to run the ball well to win this game because we wanted to control the ball and keep their offense off the field,” Ozmun said. “We wanted to put their quarterback in some pressure situations.”
Oak Hill took a 14-0 lead after the opening quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run from Bowland and a 24-yard touchdown run from Daniels. After Alexandria cut the Oak Hill lead to 14-7, Riley Johnson had 38- and 39-yard field goals in the second quarter, giving the Eagles their 20-7 lead at halftime.
“To win this sectional title is a great feeling,” Johnson said. “It’s the best feeling of my life.”