OBERLIN — It’s over. Finished. Caput. Put to rest.
It wasn’t the prettiest game, in fact, at times it was downright ugly. But the Oberlin Phoenix ended their 37-game on-field losing streak Saturday afternoon with a 14-8 triple-overtime win over the Ashtabula Sts. John & Paul Fighting Herald.
“We persevered,” said first-year Oberlin coach Dave McFarland. “Everything that could go wrong did. The weather, mistakes the players made on the field and bad plays that I called all added up against us.
“But we stayed focused and that’s what great teams do. They have the ability to overcome those types of things. This is a small step, but a large burden has been lifted off the shoulders of this team.”
Helping lift that burden were the legs and power of Oberlin running back Steve Kilgore. The senior, who didn’t play the last two years, barreled his way to 170 yards on 28 carries and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner.
“We kept our focus,” Kilgore said. “We didn’t put our heads down. We just kept motivating each other. We just kept coming at them because we didn’t want to leave anything on the field.”
Kilgore not only battled the Herald defense, but cramps.
“I started cramping really bad,” Kilgore said. “Every time I came to the sideline, I grabbed some Gatorade.”
The Herald (0-1) got the first opportunity in the opening overtime, but the Oberlin defense held tough and the Ryan Colby badly missed a 38-yard field goal attempt.
On its ensuing possession, the Phoenix (1-0) nearly ended the game. After taking a 3-yard loss on his first carry of OT, Kilgore went left and broke three tackles for a 14-yard run to the 9. Four plays later on fourth-and-goal from the 5, quarterback Austin Pinkston’s slant pass went in and out of the hands of receiver Kris Robinson.
Oberlin got first dibs in the second overtime, but stalled on fourth-and-8 from the 17 when Pinkston was sacked.
The Oberlin defense, however, came up with its own big play. After a pair of runs took the Herald to the 11-yard line, the Phoenix forced and recovered a fumble to end the threat.
In fact, the Oberlin defense came up big again in the OT, squashing a Herald scoring opportunity in the third overtime. The Phoenix sacked Herald quarterback Jake Phelps for a 1-yard loss on the first play and recovered a fumbled lateral on the second.
“I’ve said that we’re going to win with defense,” McFarland said. “Coach (Jehu) Anderson is our defensive coordinator and he’s done a great job with them. That hard work in practice paid off today.”
“We teach the kids to be real aggressive in practice,” Anderson said. “We work on timing our blitzes so we’re crashing the line as the ball gets snapped. Every facet of the defense performed well. I’m proud of how they played today, individually and as a unit.”
With the defense firing on all cylinders, the momentum shifted to the Phoenix offense and its third shot at the end zone.
Kilgore was stopped for no gain on the first play. Aaron James gained 2 yards on the second and 5 on third down to take the ball to the 13.
On fourth-and-3, Pinkston got the first down with an 8-yard keeper. With the Oberlin faithful sensing victory, Kilgore stepped up. On first-and-goal from the 5, Kilgore roared through the middle, breaking tackles and falling into the end zone for the touchdown and the victory.
“I’m really happy for the players,” McFarland said. “It’s been a long time since they walked off the field winners.”
Oberlin got on the scoreboard first in the second quarter with an 11-play, 92-yard drive highlighted by a pair of bookend runs by Kilgore. Backed up on its own 8-yard line, a 24-yard dash by Kilgore gave the Phoenix some breathing room.
Kilgore closed the drive with a 25-yard tackle-breaking score. Jaron Hicks’ two-point conversion run put the Phoenix up 8-0 with 7:44 left in the half.
The Herald answered with its own touchdown run and two-point conversion in the third quarter and the score remained tied at 8 until Kilgore’s game-winning run.
Supporting the team: There was a larger-than-usual crowd supporting the Oberlin Phoenix on Saturday as fans filled the stands and stood along the fence. Included in the head count was the entire Oberlin College football team. The Yeomen sat in the stands in the first half and then stood at the north end of the field with words of encouragement as the Phoenix went to the locker room at halftime.
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Oberlin 14, Sts. Joh and Paul 8
Ash. Sts. J-P 0 0 8 0 0 0 0 — 8
Oberlin 0 8 0 0 0 0 6 — 14
O – Steve Kilgore, 25 run (Jaron Hicks run)
A – Brandon Murphy, fumble recovery in end zone (Adam Liuzzo run)
O – Kilgore, 5 run
First downs 11 14
— by rushing 9 13
— by passing 1 0
— by penalty 1 1
Yards rushing 142 215
Yards passing 8 7
Total offense 150 222
Passes att./comp. 11/1 7/1
Intercepted by 1 1
Fumbles/lost 4/2 5/1
Penalties/yards 10/80 9/55
RUSHING — (A) Adam Liuzzo 24-105, Jake Phelps 16-43, Yancy Harper 3(-6). (O) Steve Kilgore 28-170, Aaron James 7-26, Austin Pinkston 13-18, Derek LaRiche 1-1, Jaron Hicks 1-0.
PASSING — (A) Phelps 1-11-8-0-1. (O) Pinkston 1-7-7-0-1.
RECEIVING — (A) Harper 1-8. (O) Kris Robinson 1-7.