Some coaches love the opportunity to win a close football game that allows them to drill instruction into their players as if the team lost. Not Steven Fitzhugh.
After surviving a 27-20 ballgame against an underrated (0-3) Mansfield football team, Fitzhugh gave his honest thoughts about OCS’ victory.
“We’re fortunate that we can get out of there with a win, but we did not play OCS football,” Fitzhugh said. “Last week, we took a big step forward, but this week we didn’t. Your maturity as a football team shows how you respond after a big win. We had a big win last week, and we did not come out with the same fire, intensity and passion this week. You have to have a short memory and flush what happened the week before whether you win or lose.”
The Eagles followed a 28-point victory against Oak Grove with a nail-biter road win against a Mansfield team that has now played back-to-back tough games against Evangel and OCS. The Eagles did a nice job slowing down one receiver that’s a track and field state champion and another that is a 6’4” high jumper, Fitzhugh said, but Mansfield’s Nick Davis did ultimately corral a 54-yard touchdown pass with one minute remaining to make it a one-score ballgame. Fortunately for OCS, the Eagles recovered the onside kick and were able to preserve the road victory.
“They made things exciting there,” Fitzhugh said. “They had the ball around the 50, and we called timeout and said, ‘Hey, they’re going to chunk it deep.’ We had three guys around the receiver, and he goes in for a 50-yard score.”
Offensively, Zach White had another big night rushing the football for OCS. White, who has filled in for the injured Chad Strickland, led the team in rushing with 122 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries.
“The thing is his role on defense has not changed at all,” Fitzhugh said. “And so again it shows how tough of a kid he is. We typically, like with Chad, try to keep our tailback limited to just offense. That way you can stay fresh and just play offense only. With Zach, he’s just too solid for us on defense, and he did not have one substitute on defense all night long. He’s done a great job humbly accepting that role and rising to the challenge to meet it.”
Mansfield led late in the third quarter before White busted loose on a 34-yard run. Landon Graves’ two-point run that followed made it a 20-13 Eagle lead with 28 seconds to go in the quarter. White scored again midway through the fourth to give OCS a two-touchdown lead.
Graves completed 16-of-25 passes for 166 yards and rushed for 50 yards on four carries. OCS had 10 penalties for 111 yards in the win.
“We could never really get going offensively,” Fitzhugh said. “A lot of our penalties were just lack of concentration, like an offsides or a false start or a holding. We would make a big play and then a penalty would bring it back, or we would hold them and then jump offsides or something. Just one of those games where you shake your head like, ‘Come on, guys.’ We had a turnover and turnover on downs inside the 10-yard line. Just one of those games.”
Noah Lovelady and Colin Cork each totaled 12 tackles for the Eagles. Lovelady also had three tackles for loss. Jett Hudnall had five pass breakups in the victory. Ben Devall had a sack and two tackles for loss.
The Eagles held Mansfield to just 235 total yards in the contest.
The (3-0) Eagles will look to maintain their perfect record in a home contest against Tensas Friday night.