HS Football: War Eagles Clinch Playoff Spot With Win Over College Park

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 10/20/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The College Park Cavaliers (3-5) fell to the Oak Ridge War Eagles (6-2) in both team’s pursuits of playoff positions.

The Cavaliers started the game with the football and set to work to open the game. A five-minute drive ensued, marching down the field via receptions from the district’s leading receiver, Connor Dunphy. The receptions set the Cavs up inside the five, where quarterback Kam Montgomery took a read option to the left side for the opening score.

It took some time for the War Eagles to reply to the opening score, but they did so while rolling the dice. A fourth-down pass to the endzone ended up in the hands of Larry DeBose, tying the teams at seven.

Another gamble paid off for Oak Ridge as the team kicked off after the score. The War Eagles booted the football onside, but the Cavs were not ready for it. Oak Ridge swarmed the football and was able to recover. One play later, James Scott caught a deep pass across the middle for the quick score, making it 13-6 after a missed extra point.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Oak Ridge Head Coach Mark Schmid spoke on the decision-making behind the early onside kick.

“We had video all week long,” said Schmid. “We felt like we could drop it between two layers and have a chance to get it, and the kids executed it well.”

The dam seemingly burst for the Cavs after the back-to-back scores midway through the second quarter. Another deep shot down the right sideline to Scott got the War Eagles into the endzone for a score of 20-7.

College Park’s offense remained stagnant through the rest of the quarter, but the defense provided a small window of opportunity with less than a minute remaining. Marco Beltran intercepted an errant throw and ran the ball inside the War Eagle 30.

The window quickly slammed shut as Oak Ridge defensive back Jaylen Jackson intercepted a throwaway attempt from Montgomery. The turnover allowed the War Eagles to safely kneel out the rest of the clock and take a 13-point lead into the half.

Taking a cue from their opponents, College Park opened the second half with a disguised onside of their own. Kicker Chuck Forke placed a perfect kick near the Cavalier sideline, where it was recovered successfully, setting up the Cavs inside War Eagle territory.

A quarterback change took effect on College Park’s first drive, with Rodrigo Bravo Jr. taking the snaps for the Cavalier offense. The change was taken in stride by the Oak Ridge defense, with pressure arriving in the backfield scuttling the drive.

Oak Ridge answered with a quarterback change of their own, with Jack Emerson entering the game. Emerson led the War Eagle offense on a time-consuming drive that inched down the field before Emerson took a read option to the endzone.

“We felt all week with our gameplan that a mobile quarterback would be beneficial,” said Schmid. “We knew all along that Jack [Emerson] would get some more snaps.”

After the Oak Ridge score, Marco Beltran answered the call on the ensuing kickoff. Beltran took the return from the Cavalier nine-yard line and torched the War Eagle kicking team, scoring an immediate response for a 27-14 scoreboard.

The Cavaliers fought to keep up the momentum in the fourth quarter, continuing to trust Bravo Jr. to get the job done under center. Unfortunately for College Park, the War Eagles were prepared.

A fumble forced by the Oak Ridge secondary gave the ball back to the high-powered War Eagle offense. The ensuing War Eagle drive made it inside the Cavalier five-yard line but could not punch it into the endzone. The team settled for a field goal, making the game 30-14.

Not lying down or surrendering, College Park only needed one play after the kickoff to score. Connor Dunphy streaked across the middle of the field, receiving a pass from Bravo Jr. in stride before taking the reception to the endzone. The Cavaliers attempted a two-point conversion but failed after linebacker Justin Williams burst into the backfield for a sack.

With their lead shrinking to 10, Oak Ridge needed a time-consuming drive or score to ice the game. Their following drive achieved both. Jack Emerson took another option play to the right side of the line, where he danced between defenders for the score.

Less than three minutes remained for College Park and their comeback effort, needing three scores to at least tie. Like their previous drive, College Park called on the arm of Bravo Jr., who connected with Carter Deering on a one-play score to make it 37-27.

College Park attempted another onside kick but failed to recover it in addition to drawing an illegal touching penalty. Oak Ridge could afford to kneel the ball out after an offsides penalty converted a fourth and short, winning the game by ten.

“Every year, it's a crazy game,” said Schmid. “[College Park] had a great gameplan throwing the football, and they executed well. It was a fun night for the spectators.”

The win keeps College Park in no man’s land in need of another win to secure a playoff spot. On the opposing side, Oak Ridge’s victory clinches their spot in postseason play, hoping to avenge last season’s defeat.

“We were in the playoff last year, and we got bounced out by Dekaney in the first round,” said Schmid. “We are going to be playing another really good football team, so it's all about getting better.”

Having secured their playoff spot, Oak Ridge faces the Caney Creek Panthers on Friday the 27th, while College Park fights to stay in the picture against New Caney.

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