BROOKVILLE — Playoff games are not supposed to be a ‘walk in the park.
Try telling that to Ell-Saline running back Luke Parks.
Parks gouged Oakley for 216 yards on 26 carries as the Cardinals rolled to a 27-14 victory Friday night in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Ell-Saline, which improved to 7-2, will be on the road next Friday to face Plainville (8-1) in a second-round game. Plainville eliminated Sacred Heart at home, 56-7, to advance.
Against Oakley, Parks did most of his damage between the tackles, but he got plenty of help on the flanks, where Keenan Drees chipped in 115 yards on nine carries.
“We had a game plan that we were going to run it at them, and we were going to see if they could stop us,” Parks said. "I think it was in the second quarter or late first quarter that we got that drive going where we were able to just run it down their throats and that opened it up for us to do other things.”
It was after Oakley had reached the Cardinal 20, only to see a 36-yard field goal attempt by Ellis Slack miss wide to the left that the Ell-Saline infantry began to wear down the Plainsmen.
In an eight-play, 80-yard drive, Parks got the call six straight times and, aided by a personal foul, moved the ball to a second and goal at the 5.Two plays later, Drees swept in from 4 yards out and Noah Carrazco’s point after kick gave Ell-Saline a 7-0 lead with 5:14 left in the first half.
“Our line really blocked well, which allowed me to get into the second level, and we had good success,” Parks said.
Ell-Saline coach Terry King saw no reason to change the game plan, and Parks and Drees combined for nearly all the yards in a 12-play, 71-yard drive to open the third quarter with Parks reaching the end zone at the 6:25 mark for a 14-0 advantage.
“Our game plan was to run the ball with Owen Bradley and Luke Parks,” King said. “But Bradley has been nursing a thigh bruise, so he didn’t play in the backfield tonight.
“We put Eli Hopkins back there at fullback and moved Luke to tailback, because he runs with very good vision, because he knows where he’s going and he’s a load to get down.
"That was our game plan and both times we tried to pass the ball, our receivers were open, but we missed them.”
While the Cardinals were quite satisfied to run the ball and keep the clock moving, Oakley favored a passing attack.
Eric Cain put the ball up 36 times, completing 19 for 224 yards, and always kept the Cardinal secondary covering deep.
Twice he was able to take the Plainsmen in for touchdowns, but Ell-Saline had Parks to answer.
After both touchdowns, Oakley went for the onside kick, which gave Ell-Saline relatively short fields.
The first time led to a four play, 49-yard drive, with Drees dashing 34 yards on the second play and Parks finishing with a 5-yard plunge at the 1:17 mark of the third quarter.
The next time, Parks bolted 54 yards up the middle for another score and a 27-7 lead.
Oakley scored again on an Aiden Stephenson run.