OBERLIN - The mood was surprisingly upbeat at Oberlin on Friday night despite a disappointing 32-27 loss to McDonald. This was especially the case since the Phoenix could have beaten the Blue Devils, a perennial playoff team.
Turnovers and penalties ruined a fine offensive effort by Oberlin (1-1), which outgained McDonald by more than 100 yards and fought back from a 13-0 first-quarter deficit.
"We proved we're not the old Oberlin you've seen in the past - the 0-10 Oberlin," said coach Fred Howery. "We made young mistakes but we fought back."
The Phoenix was put back on its heels when freshman Demonte Taborn lost a fumble at his 21. McDonald quickly cashed in on Randy Waters'
15-yard touchdown run. The Blue Devils followed it up quickly with a three-play,
50-yard drive capped by Austin Bucan's 5-yard burst over left tackle. A botched extra point attempt put the score at 13-0.
With time winding down in the half Oberlin junior quarterback DaShaun Horton threw a pair of touchdown passes in the last 3:14 of the half. The first was a 30-yard strike to Jason Moore, the second a 57-yarder to Lorenzo Davis. Unfortunately, they were sandwiched around the 50-yard scoring pass of McDonald's Christian Rusinowski to Stephen Vidman. The Phoenix closed the gap to 20-12 entering the third quarter.
"They have some real athletes over there," McDonald coach Dan Williams said of the Phoenix. "We gave up some big plays tonight, like we did last week, but fortunately we were able to overcome them this time."
The Blue Devils eventually did but it looked shaky for the visitors early in the third period when Oberlin went on an
11-play, 60-yard drive finished off by Horton's 20-yard pass to Moore. Horton's pass to Kalif Townsel tied the score at 20.
But McDonald hasn't been in the playoffs 13 times by rolling over. Rusinowski and Waters made the Phoenix pay for a pair of turnovers by scoring a pair of touchdowns to push the score to 32-20 midway through the fourth quarter.
Oberlin still showed its poise late in the game as Horton completed four passes on the way to its final score. Unfortunately, it came with 1:39 left and the Blue Devils were able to run out the clock when they covered the onside kick.
"We were uh-oh, here we go again in that first quarter," Howery said. "We came back and tied it up but had a few bad breaks with penalties and turnovers. But these kids have heart, they want to win and be successful.
"McDonald is a state playoff team and they will probably make it again this year. And we were just five points off."
Contact Jim Jablonski at 329-7135 or email@example.com.