In a game with frequent momentum shifts, Ethan Abell and Oakley owned the fourth quarter of Friday’s opener against Thomas More Prep-Marian.
Abell and a potent Plainsmen offensive attack were too much for the Monarchs to handle in a 25-13 loss at Lewis Field Stadium.
After a key defensive stop by Oakley midway through the fourth quarter, Abell started putting the finishing touches on a huge night, racing for a 75-yard score with 5:37 left.
The senior running back ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
"He’s a pretty shifty runner and he’s definitely got some speed, outran us on some plays," TMP coach Jay Harris said. "He’s a good running back and we knew that coming in. He was one of our keys that we would have to stop; we just did not do a good job doing it all the time."
TMP took a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter but Abell scored the game’s last three touchdowns.
"He’s a very special young man," Oakley coach Jeff Hennick said of Abell. "And he’ll be the first one to say it’s all the guys around him that helps him get done what he gets done. He’s just a very humble young man and great human being.
"We’ve got big expectations for him; probably not as much as he does (for himself). That just goes to show how much he wants it and wants to excel. He wants to do great things but wants everybody else around him to have a lot of fun doing it, too."
TMP struck first after sophomore quarterback Kade Harris lofted a pretty pass to Jace Wentling for a 39-yard score midway through the first quarter. The extra-point attempt bounced off the upright. Oakley answered with a long drive capped off by a 5-yard run by Hunter Scheck on fourth and 1.
The Monarchs had another promising drive in the second quarter end with an interception by Abell.
Oakley threatened late in the second quarter but took back-to-back sacks before senior Garrett Pfeifer stripped quarterback Eric Cain for a turnover. A long Harris run got the Monarchs to the Oakley 29 but Harris’ heave to the end zone was broken up by Abell on the last play of the half.
TMP regained the lead after Bryce Seib scored on a 3-yard run on fourth and goal with 6:56 left in the third quarter. Abell scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard run TD run with 4:44 left in the third quarter. Kade Harris blocked the extra point to keep it tied at 13.
After a TMP drive stalled near midfield, Abell capped off an Oakley drive with a 9-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Plainsmen up by six.
Harris then led the Monarchs into Plainsmen territory, but he had to leave for the rest of the drive after battling cramps.
"We had a few guys dealing with cramps (tonight)," Jay Harris said. "It was humid out there. We just have got to get to the point where we can play more guys."
Seib took over quarterback duties for the rest of the drive after Harris left. He helped the Monarchs move the chains twice and get down to the 20. But the drive stalled after back-to-back incomplete passes before Abell broke loose for the 75-yard score.
"There was definitely some momentum swings," Harris said. "Early on, we had some penalties that killed drives, and then when we were on defense we would get them into third and long and different third-down situations and we just couldn’t get our defense off the field."
Oakley finished with 460 yards of offense.
"I thought we had a lot of guys step up when they absolutely needed to, and that was the best part of it," Hennick said. "It was really fun to see those guys excel when they needed to. I thought our linemen did an outstanding job. I thought some guys came home with some big catches and we did some really good things all around.
"I’m just really happy for all these kids right now. They’ve been working their tails off. It’s fun to see us come out and play the way that we did tonight."
Harris finished with 109 yards on the ground.
Both coaches said it felt great for the teams to feel the adrenaline of Friday night football after the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
"There’s some things in place that we have to do differently, but once the opening kickoff went, it felt like a pretty normal opening night," Harris said.
"There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, whether it be this pandemic or everything else that’s going on," Hennick said. "Just to get back to something normal with two teams with great kids on it, it was amazing."
TMP will back at Lewis Field next Friday to play Russell, which took a 35-0 loss to Ellis on Friday.
"There’s nothing that we can’t correct," Harris said. "Everything is something that we’ll go back and work on in practice. We’ll get that fixed and we’ll be ready to go."
Oakley 25, TMP 13
TMP — Wentling 39 pass from Harris (kick failed)
Oakley — Scheck 5 run (Schmidt kick)
TMP — Seib 3 run (Wentling kick)
Oakley — Abell 7 run (kick blocked)
Oakley — Abell 9 run (kick failed)
Oakley — Abell 75 run (run failed)