Oakridge’s football team fed off a stingy defense and healthy diet of Trever Jones in Friday night’s playoff opener at Belding.
Sounds like a recipe for success.
Oakridge held Belding under 150 yards of offense and Jones ran for 138 yards on 27 carries en route to a 13-7 victory in Division 5 first-round action.
It’s the fourth straight victory for the Eagles, who shut down the OK Silver champion Black Knights after they had scored 66 points last week against Division 5 playoff qualifier Howard City Tri County.
“Defense played great. We picked up on some of their tendencies that we practiced really hard for, and it paid off,” Oakridge coach Cary Harger said. “We knew we had to play physically to compete with Belding. We saw that on film. Their O-line got off the ball and we had to be ready for that. Our D-line had to own their gaps and we had to have great play from our linebackers and fill from our secondary.”
Oakridge (7-3) advances to next week’s district finals at Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-0), which overwhelmed Comstock Park, 70-0, on Friday. West Catholic won the Division 6 state championship last season.
Belding, which averaged 40.7 points per game this season but had no answers against Oakridge, closes with an 8-2 record.
Oakridge senior Trever Jones (Courtney Jimison | CatchMark)
Last season, Oakridge beat Belding in the district finals, 30-8, at Russell A. Erickson Stadium.
On Friday, Oakridge struck first midway through the opening quarter when Evan Miller hit Bryson Stephenson on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Arturo Romero-Serrano’s PAT made it 7-0.
Oakridge went up 13-0 seconds into the second quarter on Jones’ 33-yard run. A two-point conversion run failed, but the Eagles took that lead into the halftime break.
“We knew they were going to be really focused on Trever,” Harger said. “We wanted to establish a good mix of ground game to keep their defense open. They tried a few different looks that I thought we handled pretty well. Bryce (Bisson) and Bryson ran the ball well. They all blocked well for each other.”
Belding pulled with 13-7 five minutes into the third quarter on TJ Smith’s 65-yard run and CJ Kazmerski’s PAT, but the Oakridge defense held the rest of the way.
Oakridge outrushed Belding, 221-103, and the Eagles outgained the Black Knights in total offense, 290-148.
Oakridge finished with 17 first downs to only six for Belding.
Stephenson rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries for the Eagles, while Miller went 4-of-9 passing for 69 yards. Stephenson led his team defensively with seven tackles, two of them for lost yardage.
Jullian Primmer and Brody Jennings notched six tackles apiece for Oakridge.
For Belding, Smith led the way offensively with 67 yards on three carries — 65 coming on the TD run. Tony Szubinski was 2-of-7 passing for 45 yards. Levi Linebough had 10 tackles for the Black Knights.
Oakridge is well-familiar with West Catholic, although the last time the Eagles faced the Falcons was in a 2015 playoff opener.
“West Catholic has been a familiar opponent over the years,” Harger said. “They are very strong this year. We will have to have a great week of focused practice.”
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