SHARON, Mass. -- Coming into Thanksgiving morning, Oliver Ames football controlled their own destiny.
After a dominating 34-8 victory over rival Sharon, it appears that destiny was on their side.
With the win, the Tigers clinched the Hockomock League Davenport division championship and will make their first playoff appearance since 1964, the year they won their last state championship.
“This game just meant everything for us, we haven’t been to the championship, we haven’t even been to the playoffs since 1964 so this is really big for this program and for the next couple years to build the program from,” senior captain cornerback Brian Crosby said.
The Tigers came out swinging in the opening seconds of the game. Junior cornerback/wide receiver Ryan McMillan intercepted Sharon senior captain Caleb Piltch-Loeb on just the second offensive snap of the game.
On OA's ensuing offensive play, senior quarterback Jared Schneider hit McMillan on a go route for a 43-yard touchdown. The play was literally written out in the mud.
“To be honest, we didn’t practice that specific play all week,” OA head coach Jim Artz said. “But when we saw them doing what they were doing [in warm-ups], I said we have something right here at the first play and literally kind of drew it in the mud over there with the linemen.”
“[Coach Artz] came up to me and said, ‘I want you to pump on the bubble and then we’re gonna throw the go,'" Schneider said. “I threw it and he made a great catch and ran it in for a touchdown.”
The Tigers brought a balanced offensive attack all game rushing for 166 yards while Schneider completed 10 of 18 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown.
“We actually came in trying to run the ball down their throats,” said senior captain Jake McDougall. “We came out and Jared was having a great game so we just kept letting him throw the ball.”
The Oliver Ames defense forced a three and out on the Eagles’ next offensive drive and didn’t stop their barrage of offense. Senior running back Sam Langston took his first hand off of the game for 46 yards and scored on an eight yard run just two plays later.
After each team exchanged turnovers, Langston took another handoff in for a 17-yard touchdown. A converted two point conversion to senior captain Alex Tepper made the score 24-0 at the half. Langston finished with 118 yards on 12 carries and one reception for 12 yards.
The Tigers defensive game plan was simple, to stop junior running back Sean Asnes, who has over 1000 yards rushing on the season.
“He’s a very talented back and we had to preach very physical play to the whistle defense,” said Artz.
OA limited Asnes to 38 yards on 10 carries. The Eagles were limited to 162 total yards on offense and only allowed one passing completion. The Tigers have struggled against the run all year, but were able to limit big plays and stuff the run with gang tackling, only allowed five plays over 10 yards.
“Defensively we just came in, we were going to pressure them and make them make plays and we were able to stop them when we needed to,” McDougall said.
The Eagles have come a long way from last season’s 1-9 finish. The Eagles finish the season 4-6 and could have clinched a playoff berth with a win over OA and a Stoughton loss.
OA forced their third turnover of the game on an interception from Crosby, returned for 40 yards. Senior running back Carlton Williamson ran in a 17-yard touchdown to go ahead 34-0.
Sharon broke the shutout early in the fourth quarter when Jake Rotman took a pitch six yards in for a touchdown. Perhaps the strangest play of the game came on the Eagles’ extra point attempt. The ball was snapped over the holder’s head, recovered by junior kicker Eric Lesser at the 30, and thrown for a successful 2-point conversion.
Senior Robert Kaszanek lead the Eagles in rushing with nine carries for 53 yards. Piltch-Loeb finished with eight carries for 40 yards and one completion for 10 yards.
The win for Oliver Ames pushes them into the first round of the state tournament; the Tigers will play Pembroke on short rest Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to find some quick way to get our legs back and nurse the bumps and bruises,” Artz said. “Hopefully we’ll keep that fine line of keeping our edge, but also getting our rest.”
“I think our coach said we’re gonna have practice in the pool to get our legs back, have a little fun with it.,” Schneider added. “We gotta watch a lot of film, get back, get our bodies back ready to go.”
--This win marks the first conference title for Oliver Ames since 1968.
--Schneider was named the team’s Thanksgiving game MVP, while Tepper won best lineman and Langston was named best back. Jordan Owen was named MVP for Sharon, while Piltch-Loeb was named best back and senior David Zhang was named best lineman.