Photo by Julie Overmyer (Jac Alexander stiff arms his way for a first half first down)
OAK HARBOR – The way Saturday’s first round playoff contest between Marion Pleasant and Oak Harbor began it appeared as if neither team’s defense would be able to stop the opposing team.
Half-time adjustments coupled with a few costly penalties and turnovers changed the pace of the game in the second half as the Rockets tallied the only touchdown of the second half to come away with a 28-21 victory over the Spartans.
It took just two minutes for Pleasant to post the game’s first score as Avery Wolfe crossed pay dirt on a six yard touchdown run to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, the Rockets needed just 39 seconds to offer its first response.
Jac Alexander led the Rockets down the field with his speed and determination on the ground and then hooked up with Clay Schulte for an 18-yard touchdown strike to even the score at 7-7 with 8:59 to go in the first quarter.
Once again Pleasant (8-3 overall) pounded its way down the field as Patrick Blubaugh gave the Oak Harbor defense fits averaging nearly eight yards a carry in the first quarter.
Blubaugh put the Spartans in scoring position late in the quarter and with 3:02 left on the first quarter clock Ethan Warner kept the ball and rolled out to his left to go into the end zone untouched as Pleasant grabbed a 14-7 advantage.
While the Spartans struggled to keep the Rockets’ rushing game in check, it was the passing game that caused the hurt once again as Alexander completed a pass to Tyler May who then scampered 45 yards for a touchdown making it 14-14 after one quarter of action.
Pleasant took a seven point lead for the third time in the contest as Blubaugh scored on a 34-yard touchdown run with 8:33 left in the first half.
The Spartans were able to stop Oak Harbor for the first time of the game forcing a punt by Alexander and the Rockets, but Oak Harbor’s defense returned the favor setting up Oak Harbor’s third scoring drive of the game.
Hunter Wilkins hauled in Alexander’s third touchdown pass of the game on a 23-yard pass with :24 seconds remaining in the half making the score 21-21 at the half.
The Rockets received the second half kick-off and moved the ball quickly into Pleasant territory before Alexander found Ryan Ridener on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 9:21 to go in the third quarter.
Strangely enough, the Spartans, who finished with 367 rushing yards in the game, were not able to score again as the defense of Schulte, Alexander, Cole Roob, Ridener, and others banded together to hold Pleasant scoreless over the final 27 and a half minutes of the game and earn Oak Harbor a trip to next Saturday’s Regional Semi-Final contest against Liberty Center.
Alexander picked off Warner to force one turnover and the Rockets’ defense recovered a fumble in their own territory later in the game as well.
To add to Pleasant’s struggles, the yellow penalty flag was tossed ten times for a total of 76 yards against the Spartans.
Despite not being able to score, Pleasant held Oak Harbor scoreless for the final 21 minutes plus as well.
In the final minutes of the game the Spartans forced Oak Harbor to punt hoping for a late game tying rally.
Alexander’s punt dropped inside the Pleasant five yard line and May downed the ball on the Spartans’ two yard line.
Facing the entire length of the field and just a few minutes left on the clock, the Spartans were unable to produce a score.
In all, Pleasant finished with 384 yards of offense to Oak Harbor’s 285.
Blubaugh had 225 rushing yards on 31 carries while Wolfe finished with 60 yards and Warner with 56.
For the Rockets (10-1 overall), Alexander had 16 carries for 86 yards.
The biggest difference came in the passing game as Alexander completed 11-of-17 passing for 179 yards while Warner completed just two passes for 17 yards.
May finished with four catches for 95 yards, Schulte had three for 32 yards, Wilkins added two catches for 22 yards, Nick Pfeiffer had a 12-yard reception, and Ridener added the other reception for the 18-yard score.