Oak Park Storms Back, Defeats Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at PKC
By JEFF DULLACK
DETROIT – Friday afternoon’s matchup between Oak Park and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was the definition of a tale of two halves. The first half couldn’t have gone much better for the Eaglets as St. Mary’s went into halftime with a 13-0 lead.
But the second half, however, was dominated by Oak Park.
Behind a dominant defensive performance in the second half and a big game from running back Johnny Kelly, Oak Park overcame the 13 point deficit, scoring 25 unanswered points to pick up a 25-20 win over the Eaglets in the annual Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State.
Oak Park head coach Greg Carter said that his team didn’t make many adjustments at halftime, but rather his team came out playing much better after their locker room chat and it showed on the field in the final 24 minutes of the game.
“Nothing, we actually didn’t make a whole lot of defensive or offensive changes,” he said. “We just knew we needed to play harder and play with a little bit better technique and the kids did that. It’s not that they (St. Mary’s) were doing anything scheme wise that affected us, we just weren’t playing well and tackling as well as we needed to.”
Trailing by a pair of touchdowns, Oak Park finally made its way onto the scoreboard when Ricardo Brown found the end zone on a nine yard run to cut the St. Mary’s lead down to 13-7.
After the ensuing kickoff, Oak Park’s Shawn Anthony picked up a St. Mary’s fumble on the first play of the series for the Eaglets and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game up at 13-13 with about four minutes to go in the third quater.
“We started giving ourselves a little momentum with the first touchdown of the second half,” Carter said. “But to get that fumble recovery and to score was just tremendous and it gave us a little more energy to fight in a really tough second half.”
But the Knights weren’t done there.
After forcing a three and out on the following St. Mary’s possession highlighted by a Shahid Bellamy sack, the Knights took their first lead of the game as quarterback Jordan Leonard connected with Donte Only for a 50 yard touchdown to give Oak Park a 19-13 lead. Kelly noted that while Oak Park’s offense stepped up in the second half, the defense did as well and noted that Anthony’s touchdown was a big momentum swing for the Knights on both sides of the ball.
“Our defense definitely picked it up as well,” he said. “Some of the guys who are on the offensive line are on the defensive line as well and once the momentum changed, everybody was hyped up and we were just ready to play.”
Then, just over two minutes later, Oak Park took its largest lead of the game as Kelly took off on a 49 yard touchdown run as he outran the St. Mary’s defense to push the lead to 25-13, which would prove to be enough to pick up the win. Kelly, who was named Oak Park’s MVP of the game finished Friday’s contest with 167 yards rushing on 16 carries to go along with his touchdown to lead the way for the Knights.
“The line really stepped up in the second half and started blocking,” Kelly said of his big game running the ball. “They opened up a lot of holes for us running backs so I have to give big props to the line in this one.”
In the first half, St. Mary’s found plenty of success using its own rushing attack as Jeff Robinson notched a touchdown run from a yard away to give the Eaglets a 7-0 lead with 3:03 left in the first quarter and Mark Zanders pushed the lead to 13-0 with a one yard touchdown of his own with 2.8 seconds left in the half. Zanders later notched the final touchdown of the game for the Eaglets, another one yard run that cut the deficit to 25-20 for St. Mary’s.
Carter noted that Friday’s win was big for his team as they look ahead to playing in a loaded OAA White division this fall, adding that it will give his team plenty of confidence going forward.
“Every week is going to be like this in our division,” he said. “The OAA is great, the coaches are great, the players are tremendous and this just gives us some confidence that we can fight through some adversity if we’re down in a game and we have the confidence that we can come back.”