For the first five weeks of the season the West Ouachita Chiefs held an unblemished record by rolling up their sleeves and bullying around smaller opposition. Many wondered what would happen when the Chiefs finally faced their first 5A opponent since moving up a classification, and those questions were answered in a 41-17 loss against the (4-2, 1-0) Ouachita Lions.
“They’re ball-control offense certainly worried us going in, and Coach (Matt) Middleton does a heck of a job milking the clock,” Ouachita head coach Jeff Fitzgerald said.
But Ouachita had a difference-maker — speed. And more specifically, the Lions had the speed of Chaunzavia Lewis, who ran for 183 yards on 11 carries against the Chiefs. After the game Middleton approached Lewis and said, “I’m so glad you’re a senior.”
Throughout the night, the blazing speed of athletes like Lewis and D.J. Jacobs ripped off explosive plays that utilized quickness at the second level and on the perimeter. The Chiefs attempted to counter Ouachita’s speed with a physical rush attack that ate clock on long methodical drives. And it worked for a half.
In fact, the first drive of the game saw West Ouachita eat up nearly half of the first quarter with an 11-play drive. But West Ouachita faced a fourth-and-three from Ouachita’s 23-yard line and came one yard shy on a rush attempt.
The Lions immediately went to work passing and running reverses to try and utilize that speed advantage on a drive that ultimately culminated in a nine-yard touchdown run from Lewis.
Following a three-and-out for the Chiefs and a nice return by Jaylen Kincaid, Ouachita looked to extend its lead with a drive that began inside West Ouachita territory. The Chiefs defense stood tall, however, and Luke Middleton got a sack on third-and-long to force a punt.
That set the tone for the defenses to take over. Two series later, West Ouachita defensive back Cole Moore intercepted Zach Shaw, flipping the field position and momentum.
The Chiefs handed the ball to Tobias Owens on four straight plays to get the ball inside Ouachita’s 20-yard line. After a 10-yard gain from Kohl Nolan, and a few more dive plays near the goal line, Owens punched in a two-yard touchdown run to notch it, 7-7, with 4:28 to go in the second quarter.
The Lions quickly responded with a two-play scoring drive that featured Lewis breaking several tackles on an incredible 33-yard run followed by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Jacobs.
“We got off to a slow start, but we eventually got it going (offensively),” Shaw said.
With a little more than three minutes to work with, West Ouachita’s offense went to the ground and got the ball inside Ouachita’s 35-yard line with 13 seconds remaining. A throwback screen from Crawford to Owens got the ball to the 16-yard line with three seconds remaining and no timeouts. After Crawford hurried to the line and spiked the ball with one second remaining, Luke Stagg nailed a 33-yard field goal to reduce Ouachita’s lead to 14-10 at the half.
West Ouachita’s good fortune ended with the half. At the start of the third quarter West Ouachita successfully executed an onside kick but a whistle blew the play dead. Referees picked the flag up, forcing West Ouachita to kick again.
“I think the first half, I expected us to be able to hold the ball and limit them because they’re so electric,” Middleton said. “Felt like going into halftime, we had a chance. We just couldn’t self implode. We got to kick the onside kick and (the referees) blew an inadvertent whistle, which was huge. We’re forced to re-kick and we don’t get it.”
Ouachita took advantage with a four-play, 57-yard drive that resulted in a 28-yard run from Lewis. Trailing 21-10, West Ouachita fumbled the ball two plays into the next series, giving Ouachita the ball inside Chief territory. Ouachita cashed in on West Ouachita’s turnover with Lewis scoring his third touchdown of the night. That gave Ouachita a 27-10 advantage after the missed extra point with 6:19 remaining in the third quarter. Lewis added another score one minute later. Out of the wildcat formation, Lewis blew past West Ouachita’s safeties on a 40-yard run for his fourth touchdown run of the game.
“I love running out of the wildcat,” Lewis said. “That’s my favorite play. I was actually looking to give it but Boris (Richard) was already gone.”
Lewis rushed for four scores in the victory.
For the second week in a row, Carmycah Glass recorded a pick six for Ouachita. This one put the Lions on top 41-10 in the fourth quarter.
West Ouachita dominated the time of possession and ran twice as many plays as Ouachita did, but in the end it was Ouachita’s explosive plays that were the difference maker.
Riding a three-game win streak, Ouachita will look to keep the positive momentum going with a road trip to Ruston Friday. After suffering its first loss of the season, West Ouachita will travel to play (5-1, 1-0) West Monroe.