Herring

In a battle of unbeaten District 2-1A squads, the Ouachita Christian Eagles was the only team to walk off of Steven Fitzhugh Field still unblemished in 2020.

On senior night, quarterback Hunter Herring accounted for every offensive score, and even the lone 2-point conversion, in a 50-20 victory against Cedar Creek. In a way, it was Herring’s way of saying, “Did you miss me?’” after missing last week’s win against Delhi.

And OCS fans got familiar with Herring once again on the opening series.  On a 4th-and-1 from Cedar Creek’s 16-yard line, Herring faked the handoff and went off-tackle for the 16-yard touchdown run. It would be the first of six total touchdowns for the senior quarterback. One might say Herring was extra motivated after nursing an injury against Delhi.

“It did fire me up (missing the game),” Herring said. ‘I love Landon (Graves). I think it’s great that we have two quarterbacks that can win football games. But it did eat at me not being able to play.”

OCS had tremendous field position on the drive thanks to a 52-yard return from Graves, who threw for 225 yards one-week prior against Delhi. Graves impacted this game as a returner, receiver and punter (thanks to a little creativity).

Cedar Creek had an immediate answer for the Eagles. Facing a 3rd-and-long deep in their own territory after a Cougar returner slipped on the ensuing kickoff return, quarterback Brady Menzina hit J.T. Stephens for an 89-yard touchdown strike. Menzina then scored on the option keeper for the 2-point conversion to put the Cougars up 8-7.

The Cougars and Eagles then traded turnovers in the first quarter.

Menzina fumbled a snap after the Cougars forced a three-and-out, which led to junior Eagle Casey Cobb recovering a fumble near Cedar Creek’s own 30.

The Eagles couldn’t cash in on the turnover, however, as Herring was picked off by Jed Worthey inside the Cougars 10-yard line.

Herring more than made up for it. The Ragin’ Cajun football commit set the tone on OCS’ final drive of the first quarter, as he ripped through tacklers and spun off of additional attempts to tackle him in the second and third level. Herring rushed for 39 yards on the series. He also used his arm. On 3rd-and-12, Herring dropped back to pass and floated the ball right over the shoulder of junior Barham White in double coverage for the first down.

Senior tailback Dillon Dougan got in on the fun with a 29-yard run on the drive before Herring punched in his second score of the night. Herring also scored on the 2-point conversion to put the Eagles up 15-8 early into the second quarter.

White and seniors Christopher Holyfield and Henry Messinger’s penetration on defense disrupted Cedar Creek’s option based attack throughout the night. That forced the Cougars to turn to the air, and that’s when Cedar Creek committed its second turnover of the half as Graves intercepted Menzina near midfield.

OCS created some separation in the second quarter, thanks to a gutsy call by the Eagles coaching staff.

On 4th-and-15 near midfield, the Eagles ran a fake punt where Graves received the snap, started to turn up field and then threw a dart down the field to Tristan Wiley for a 28-yard gain. 

“You got Landon Graves back there and Tristan Wiley on the outside, so you’ve got two guys who can make plays,” OCS head coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “I trust those guys to make the decision. It was there and he made a good read on it.”

That ultimately led to Herring’s third touchdown run of the night, as he found the end zone on a 10-yard run to put the Eagles up 22-8 with approximately six minutes remaining in the half.

Aside from the 89-yard touchdown pass given up on the first Cougar possession of the game, the Eagles limited Cedar Creek to 116 total yards the rest of the half.  

“Big plays have been our problem all year,” Cobb said. “Overall we played good and were more physical than them. A lot of people doubted us this year. They thought we’d have a bunch of shootouts, but the defense is coming along.”

Penalties were a major issue for the Eagles in the first half. Ten penalties in the first two quarters consistently placed OCS well behind the sticks. The Eagles’ offense was explosive enough to overcome that problem time and time again, including just before the half when another 15-yard penalty forced a 2nd-and-25 scenario with less than four minutes to play. Herring completed a 24-yard pass to Thomas Culp before ultimately getting the first down with his legs. A holding call led to yet another 3rd-and-long situation and Herring found his top target Wiley for a 23-yard gain for the first. Worthey recorded his second interception of the half to limit the damage, and Messinger recorded a sack on the ensuing Cedar Creek possession to send the Eagles into the half leading 22-8.

Cedar Creek running back Bryson Fields scored from 16 yards out to make the game a one-possession contest, but an unsportsmanlike conduct play set up another creative special teams play by OCS. Graves caught the kickoff near Cedar Creek’s sideline on the 40 before throwing across field to Wiley, who returned the kick to the Cougars 14-yard line. Herring’s 4-yard score that followed expanded the Eagles lead back to double digits.

Fields and the Cougars ran through OCS defenders on the ensuing drive before Menzina scored from 14 yards out. The Eagles stuffed the fullback dive on the 2-point try after, though, to maintain a 29-20 advantage in the third quarter.

The Eagles offense remained on its smooth and steady flight path toward the end zone. After a third-down completion to Van David Matherne near midfield, the Eagles found themselves back inside the Cougars 10-yard line after Herring followed a pulling Avery Pilgreen, who’s lead block sprung yet another Herring first down run. The Eagles polished off the drive with a Herring 6-yard touchdown run.

Cedar Creek’s offensive momentum came to an immediate halt after Herring’s fifth touchdown. Another Cobb tackle for loss followed by a Holyfield quarterback hurry forced a 3-and-out.

Herring’s sixth score of the night came via a 29-yard run. Herring finished the game with 168 rushing yards. Welcome back, Mr. Herring, indeed.

Holyfield scooped up a fumble and returned it for the score to cap the victory.

Going into the 2020 contest, OCS had dominated the last two meetings against Cedar Creek. The Eagles won those two matchups by a combined score of 81-6. Those victories came after a 2017 loss to Cougars.

OCS is now 13-2 against Cedar Creek in the all-time series.

The Eagles will travel to take on undefeated Oak Grove next Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. 

“Us and Oak Grove, this will be to see who is in the driver seat in district,” Fitzhugh said.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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