Some schools may schedule a 5A school for nothing more than power point implications. That’s not completely untrue of Ouachita Christian.
The difference, however, is OCS scheduled 5A foe Denham Springs with aspirations of beating that 5A squad and jumping into a Top 4 seed position for the 2020 postseason. Before the game was ever official, head coach Steven Fitzhugh checked with his seniors first to see what they thought.
"Denham Springs called me looking to play, and I had already talked with Delta Charter about whether they would be able to play on Friday," Fitzhugh said. "(Delta Charter head coach Blake Wheeler) told me he didn't know if they would be able to, so if I wanted to talk with other schools it was fine. A lot of my seniors were playing cornhole at somebodies house, so I called them and explained the situation to them. 'Hey, if we beat them, we have an opportunity to play two or three playoff games at home.'"
The seniors were all for it, so the matchup was set. And wouldn't you know it, the (6-1) Eagles returned to town Friday night with a 5A victory.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever beaten a 5A school as a 1A school,” OCS head coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “We beat ASH a few years back, but we were a 2A school. On the way back home last night, I started thinking has any 1A school from our area beaten a 5A school like that? I would guess probably not because it would be insane to schedule a game against a 5A team week of during a normal year. We treated it like a playoff game.”
A 47-21 win against (1-7) Denham Springs boosted OCS up the polls of the Division IV bracket. The (6-1) Eagles climbed to No. 3 in the unofficial power ratings as their sights now turn toward winning another Division IV State Championship.
How the Eagles pulled off such a feat is actually quite telling by the score alone. With 362 rushing yards and 477 yards of total offense, OCS’ offense was far too physical and dynamic for the Yellowjackets to match pace.
That was proven in the first quarter when senior running back Dillon Dougan broke a 54-yard touchdown for the first score of the game. Fellow senior Hunter Herring followed suit later in the quarter with a 41-yard touchdown run. OCS’ star quarterback ran for 220 yards and five touchdowns on 15 carries in the victory against Denham Springs.
But Fitzhugh wanted to give a big shout out to his offensive line, as he credited his big men up front for the big night on the ground.
“Andy Weatherford, our starting center, was back last night, and he made a huge difference,” Fitzhugh said. “The last few weeks, we’ve had to play guys in different spots without him being there. Our offensive line opened up some huge holes last night, and I thought Hunter and Dillon ran it better than they have all season long.”
The Yellowjackets cut OCS’ lead in half at the end of the quarter with a 31-yard touchdown pass, but OCS took a 21-7 lead into the half thanks to a pick six by Noah Lovelady in the second quarter.
“Lovelady’s pick was huge because we went for it on fourth down the series before and they stopped us, so they had some momentum there,” Fitzhugh said. “And two plays later, (Lovelady) ended up dropping in the right position and picked that thing off on the run. That play to me was the play of the game. It just took some life out of them, and it charged our guys up.”
The third quarter practically mirrored the first quarter. Herring scored on two runs and Denham Springs connected with another long touchdown pass. Still, OCS took a 34-14 lead into the fourth quarter on the road. Two more Herring scores in the fourth (29-yard and 27-yard runs) put the game away before Denham Springs scored one last passing touchdown.
“We needed to get some experience against a passing team,” Fitzhugh said. “And they were a passing team. I really feel like we did better against the pass. We still gave up a couple big plays, but 140 of their 240 yards came on three plays. I thought we played well besides a blown coverage. One of their kids just made a great catch too.”
OCS’ defense limited the Yellowjackets to 287 yards in the win. Denham Springs mustered just 40 rushing yards on 15 carries.
Herring was 9-of-16 for 108 yards through the air. Dougan rushed for 134 yards on 17 carries.
Kael Skipper, Van David Matherne and James David Miller each recorded two tackles for loss for the Eagles in the victory.
The Eagles will host an opening round playoff game and will find out who they will host Sunday when the playoff pairings are announced. Projected to be a No. 3 seed, OCS would likely host Hamilton Christian Thanksgiving week.