Cedar Creek was two minutes away from pulling off the stunner of the year in Class 1A. But the Ouachita Christian Eagles football team believes they're never out of the fight, and Steven Fitzhugh’s bunch proved that again in a 33-22 victory Friday night.
The Cougars clung to a 22-21 advantage with the final minutes dwindling away. Cedar Creek was in the midst of a 15-play, 35-yard drive that ate more than seven minutes of clock. And it was getting deeper into the fourth quarter. OCS coaches on the sideline were starting to game plan for when to use timeouts, as the game neared the two-minute mark.
"It sounds crazy, a 15-play, 35-yard drive, but it ate up so much time that we said, 'Look, we've got to get a stop here,'" OCS head coach Steven Fitzhugh said. "James David Miller had been nursing an ankle injury since the jamboree, so we held him out last week and we've only been playing him on offense this year. Our offensive line coach said, 'Put him in, Coach.'"
Miller, who started as the team's nose guard the past two season, recorded three consecutive tackles to help force a punting situation. But Cedar Creek executed that punt situation perfectly, pinning OCS at its own 3-yard line.
"So we're like, 'OK, we've got two minutes here to go 97 yards,' and I felt fine about it because we have Landon Graves," Fitzhugh said. "He can do it. I know he can. And we've got a solid group of receivers, and our offensive linemen hadn't given up a sack all night. We practice this two-minute drill every week, but hey, getting all the yardage on one play certainly made me more comfortable in the situation."
On a sprint out pass, Landon Graves completed a 97-yard touchdown pass to Tristan Wiley for the go-ahead score. Wiley jumped between two defenders, high pointed the ball and maintained the balance to finish the play with the score. It was the second-longest passing play in OCS history.
Graves threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-30 passing.
On the very next possession, OCS defensive lineman Casey Cobb tipped a Cedar Creek pass and Miller corralled the interception and returned it all the way. Miller played nine defensive plays and recorded five tackles and a pick six.
"Phew, it was a barn burner," Fitzhugh said. "Cedar Creek has an outstanding team. (Jed) Worthey is such a tough kid. He's not real big, but he's got a big heart. He made plays all night. It was a unique game because we didn't have many possessions."
The Eagles led for most of the contest. Graves tossed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Wiley in the first quarter, and despite Worthey’s two-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the Eagles held a one-point advantage after Cedar Creek’s two-point try came up short.
The Eagles extended their lead to 14-6 in the second quarter when Wiley caught the second of his three touchdowns from Graves. Wiley had 196 receiving yards and three scores on eight catches. Thomas Culp caught 11 balls for 144 yards. Culp's 11 receptions are tied for fourth most in a game in school history.
Worthey rushed for 160 yards and two scores on 25 carries.
A six-yard Chad Strickland run in the third quarter put the Eagles on top 21-6 before Worthey scored on a 50-yard touchdown later in the quarter. Lane Thomas put the the Cougars on top in the fourth quarter with a one-yard score before Caden Middleton scored the two-point conversion.
It doesn't get any easier for the Eagles next. OCS will make the short trip to Chip Luffy Field for a Thursday night clash against (4-0) St. Frederick. Like the Eagles, the Warriors own a hard-fought victory against Cedar Creek. And the Warriors defense has been playing lights out.
"It's going to be another defensive battle," Fitzhugh said. "They've given up just six points in their last three games and had back-to-back games where they held their opponents to negative yardage. This is the district championship here. They're undefeated and we're undefeated. And they've beaten the teams we still have on our schedule. So it's going to be a great atmosphere."