By Aiden Wacksman
On Friday, Sept. 13, the Oak Hall Eagles’ varsity football team handed the 9th-ranked St. Joseph’s Academy Flashes its first loss in 697 days with an exhilarating 28-14 win. This victory proved to be especially important, as the Gainesville Sun had the Eagles losing to the 2A powerhouse by nearly four touchdowns. Even when trailing 0-7 in the first quarter, the team remained strong and rallied back to beat the Flashes. Two crucial third quarter touchdowns and an interception late in the fourth secured the victory for Oak Hall.
“I could tell from watching the film that the Flashes were very athletic and well-coached,” said RJ Fuhr, Oak Hall’s varsity head football coach. He believed the Eagles would have to play a “near-perfect game” in order to win.
It wasn’t until right before halftime that the Eagles knew the victory was within reach. “The touchdown we got before the half really shifted the momentum,” Fuhr noted. He added that the opposing players at halftime were “absolutely exhausted.” Seeing the tired Flashes provided a confidence boost for the entire Oak Hall team.
The Eagles received the ball to begin the third quarter, and drove down the field to score a touchdown. This was the first time Oak Hall had the lead, and the pressure was beginning to build on the Flashes. On the next possession, the Eagle defense stood strong against St. Joseph’s, forcing a punt. When Oak Hall got the ball back, Eagles running back Ryan Nolan made an impressive 24- yard run into the endzone, making the score 14-7. The momentum began to favor the Eagles, and Oak Hall made yet another big stop on defense. On the ensuing drive, the Eagles extended the lead to 21-7. “At this point in the game, the [Flashes] knew that they were in for a fight,” Fuhr said. After getting the ball back, St. Joseph’s scored its first touchdown since the first quarter. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 21-14, in favor of the Eagles.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Oak Hall scored its fourth touchdown of the game, giving the Eagles a 14-point lead. This lead, however, was put in jeopardy when the Flashes moved the ball to the Eagles’ 30 yard-line with two minutes left. Just when the game appeared to be getting much closer, cornerback Jacarree Kelly came in clutch with an outstanding interception. “Right before the snap, I saw the quarterback look at my receiver, so I stepped away to fake him out because I knew he was throwing the ball to him,” he said enthusiastically. The quarterback threw an inaccurate pass, and Kelly came up with a game-clinching play. Fuhr noted that “when [Kelly] made the interception, it allowed me to breathe a little easier.” Oak Hall left St. Augustine with an important and exciting 28-14 win that Friday night. “For a young team like ours to go on the road and beat a team like St. Joseph’s, it’s awesome,” Fuhr said happily.
On Friday Sept. 20, Oak Hall played the Evangelical Christian Sentinels at home. Even with an excellent comeback late in the first half, the Eagles lost a very close game. The final score was 29-36.
“We made a couple of mistakes, but in the end, I’m proud of our team for hanging in there,” Fuhr stated.