Editor’s Note: As we wait for sports to resume locally, we’ll take a look back at the Top 10 high school football games since 2015. Every week will feature a look back at the top games played amongst our parish teams.
No. 3: OCS vs. Calvary Baptist (2019)
Poor Steven Fitzhugh.
Fitzhugh has talked with me a couple of times during this “greatest hits” run of mine after two heartbreaking 2018 Eagle losses made the Top 10 in this series. I’ve sent Fitzhugh on some long runs to try and erase those bad memories in his mind, but as I told him, you just have to stay patient. You know this story ends with a happy ending.
So pull up a chair and travel back in time to last November. Calvary Baptist was undefeated heading into the Div. IV Playoffs, coming off of one of the most dominant seasons in the state. After beating St. Frederick, 52-12, in the first round, the Cavaliers entered a matchup against OCS averaging 53.5 points per game while only allowing 7.9 points per contest. I know those numbers seem off, but I invite you to do the math yourself. After all, this is the same team that beat an extremely proud Haynesville program, 70-0.
It’s important for you to realize that to truly understand what OCS was up against. After so much 2018 heartache, including that Hail Mary loss to Southern Lab and last-minute field goal loss to St. Frederick that were both included in this series, OCS was facing an absolute juggernaut on the road in the 2019 playoffs. So going into this contest, nobody, including the local media, gave OCS much of a chance.
We probably all felt smart too when Calvary took a 33-13 halftime lead. Don’t worry… That didn’t last long. OCS began to mount a comeback for the ages, as quarterback Hunter Herring found targets for completions that covered more than 20 yards. Herring led OCS’ big passing attack, which allowed the Eagles to strike fast and put the pressure back on Calvary’s offense. A one-yard run by Herring near the end of the third quarter drew the Eagles within one touchdown by the quarter's end.
Calvary expanded its lead to 47-33 with only 10 minutes remaining in the contest. But Herring found paydirt with his legs on the very next offensive possession — this touchdown run coming from nine yards out — before adding a 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to six. OCS’ defense then stood tall, as Grant Mashaw and Christian Gray recorded back-to-back sacks to set up a 4th-and-18 from the Calvary 20. OCS got the ball back with a chance to pull off a historic victory.
After Herring picked up a 4th-and-1 with his legs, he found Eli Extine for a 51-yard touchdown to tie the game at 47 with 2:42 remaining. Will Fitzhugh’s 2-point conversion that followed gave OCS its first lead in the ballgame.
“Hunter Herring was fabulous,” Steven Fitzhugh said. “He made so many plays when we were in a bind.”
And while we were obviously enamored with the comeback, as well as Herring’s five-touchdown performance in the victory, Steven Fitzhugh still to this day points out a special teams play made by one of smallest players on the team as a major difference in the game.
After the score, Christopher Holyfield’s ensuing kickoff drifted out of bounds. Rather than taking the ball at the 35, the Cavaliers opted to make the Eagles re-kick.
“I told Chris to pin it deep. If it goes out of bounds, that’s okay,” Steven FItzhugh said. “They said, ‘This is what we do,’ and made us re-kick.”
Kicking the ball to the dangerous Isaiah Brown was a risk Fitzhugh was willing to take over kicking short and conceding field position.
On the second kickoff, Julian Stephenson dislodged the ball on the return, and Walker Morris made the recovery for the Eagles at the 32.
“Julian is one of the littlest guys on the team, but he has a big heart,” Steven Fitzhugh said. “He squared up with Isaiah Brown back in the (preseason) scrimmage, and he did the same thing on the kickoff return Friday night, and was able to pull the ball loose.”
OCS took its lumps in an 8-4 2018 campaign that featured three razor thin losses. The Eagles stressed two words the entire offseason, “Finish strong.” OCS’ win against Calvary on the road epitomized those two words, as the Eagle rode that momentum to a 2019 state title victory.
“The Lord has blessed us with some great kids,” Steven Fitzhugh said. “They are a close-knit and resilient group. They never hit the panic button. The coaches made some good adjustments. Everybody worked together."
With two weeks remaining, the spotlight will shift to another underdog tale and one of the greatest finishes you'll find in high school football.