Smith-Cotton’s defense held off one final O’Hara drive in a 26-21 win over the Celtics on Friday at Tiger Stadium.
After a short punt, O’Hara took over at the Tigers’ 22-yard line with 2:27 left in the game. The Tigers’ defensive line limited O’Hara gains on the first three plays of the possession and a pass on fourth-and-five landed just short of the diving receiver.
“They continue to answer the call,” said Smith-Cotton coach Ryan Boyer of his defense. “… We put ourselves in some tough spots but we stuck together, the team stuck together and that’s what we talked about. Our leadership comes into play.”
The defense held O’Hara’s ground attack to 131 yards on 38 carries and forced two turnovers. O’Hara’s second-to-last drive of the game also started in Smith-Cotton territory but S-C forced them backward including a sack on third-and-long to bring on the punt unit.
“Our D-line did a good job of getting the push all night and attacking the edge,” Boyer said. “They had some speed, they had some athletes out there. We were just attacking the edge and swarming to the ball. One guy might stand him up and the other guys would just swarm.”
Smith-Cotton took the lead with a long first quarter drive. Taking over with 6:54 left in the first quarter, the Tigers marched 53 yards in 11 plays before Noah Aziere scored from a yard out with 33 seconds left in the quarter. The drive was aided by back-to-back O’Hara penalties, including a face mask to put the ball on the Celtics’ 10.
O’Hara answered on the ensuing drive, converting with a 23-yard gain on a fake punt to move the ball into S-C territory and capping the drive with a Matthew Johnson touchdown pass to Austin Evans.
Then the Tigers’ rushing game took over with Carlton Homan. A 31-yard Homan gain set S-C up in O’Hara territory. He capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
An O’Hara fumble on the next drive set the Tigers up at the Celtics’ 30 and Homan capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the night to put S-C up 20-7 heading into halftime.
“The holes were there and I just got up in it,” Homan said. “Luckily I got past the second level a lot of the time and I was able to make some plays.”
Homan finished the game with 15 carries for 103 yards. Aziere added 72 yards on the ground. Reed gained 59.
Turnovers helped O’Hara in the second half. Smith-Cotton fumbled its first play from scrimmage in the third quarter and the Celtics recovered. Brock Hughes punched it in from a yard out 10 plays later. On the next S-C drive, Austin Evans intercepted a pass and returned it 75 yards for another Celtics score to put O’Hara in front 21-20.
Smith-Cotton answered with a nine-play, 49-yard touchdown drive capped off by a six-yard Caleb Reed score. The Tigers were set up in Celtics territory after a short punt under pressure by Ricky Warren. Homan’s rush on the two-point conversion attempt came up just short as S-C led 26-21.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles