The Stoughton High football team went into Friday’s game against Oliver Ames —win and the Black Knights would have wrapped up the and would have been playoff bound.
Now, after a 24-14 loss to the Tigers Friday night at home, Oliver Ames has the inside track to winning the division and Stoughton must now scoreboard watch on Thanksgiving.
If Oliver Ames (5-4, 2-1 in the Davenport) beats Sharon on Thanksgiving, the Tigers will earn the division’s playoff berth. Stoughton (5-5, 2-1 in the Davenport) needs to beat Canton and hope Sharon pulls off the upset to advance to the postseason.
“It’s tough,” Stoughton coach Greg Burke said of the loss. “That’s the one we wanted. That would have put us in [the playoffs].”
Oliver Ames entered Friday’s game on a three-game losing streak, but Tigers head coach Jim Artz said his team played up to its potential against Stoughton.
“I think we’re a good football team and I’ve been wanting for us to show that,” he said. “[Friday night] was just outstanding. It was a great win for us.”
Oliver Ames used a strong third quarter and start to the fourth to turn a 7-3 halftime deficit into a 24-7 lead with 9:14 left in the game.
On the Tigers’ opening drive of the second half they faced a 3rd and 16 from the Stoughton 47, but Jared Schneider found tight end for a 17-yard gain on a screen.
Schneider scored on a 30-yard quarterback keeper on the very next play to put Oliver Ames up 10-7 with 7:44 left in the third.
On Stoughton’s next drive, St. Clair Ryan came up with an interception for Oliver Ames, picking off an Alex Fernandes pass on 3rd and 18. Ryan came up with the pick at the Stoughton 40-yard line and returned it 26-yards to give the Tigers excellent field position.
Three plays later, Schneider scored on a 3-yard run to put Oliver Ames up by 10, 17-7, with 4:38 left in the third.
“That hurt, quite obviously,” Burke said of the interception and the OA touchdown that followed.
The Black Knights went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. Stoughton then muffed the punt attempt, with punter Aaron Claixte finally falling on the ball, as Oliver Ames took over at the Stoughton 25, giving themselves a short field to work with again.
Five straight runs by Samuel Langston advanced the ball to the Stoughton 1-yard line at the end of the third. The Black Knights put up a goal line stand to start the fourth quarter, highlighted by John Olsen wrapping up the Oliver Ames runner for a 3-yard loss on second down.
But, on fourth down, Schneider found Tepper in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Tigers up 24-7 with 9:14 to go.
“We got touchdowns the first three times we touched the ball in the second half and that’s huge because with our defense playing the way they’re playing, that’s tough for teams to come back from and it showed [Friday night],” Artz said.
But Stoughton did almost comeback.
Malachi Baugh had a 40-yard kickoff return to start Stoughton’s next drive and then caught a 12-yard pass on the first offensive play to advance the ball to the Oliver Ames 37. A 17-yard pass to Marcus Middleton and an interference call against OA’s Brian Crosby gave Stoughton the ball on the OA 11-yard line.
On third down, Fernandes connected with Calixte for an 11-yard touchdown in the middle of the field, making it a 24-14 game, following the extra point.
On the second play of the Tigers’ next drive, Baugh recovered a fumble on a botched option pass from Schneider to Langston at the Oliver Ames 25-yard line.
But, Stoughton was unable to take advantage on offense. Baugh caught a touchdown in the corner of the end zone on fourth down with about seven minutes left, but the play was called back because of an illegal motion against Stoughton. Fernandes’ second fourth down attempt fell incomplete.
Neither team scored the rest of the way with Crosby’s interception with 1:31 left at the Oliver Ames 10-yard line, cementing the victory for the Tigers.
The second half was a complete reversal of fortunes for Oliver Ames. In the first half, the Tigers struggled to move the ball on the Stoughton defense. Punting on their first three drives, missing a field goal and having a ball picked off (Baugh had the interception).
Stoughton, meanwhile had some big plays on offense—a 69-yard run by Aaron Mack on their second drive in the first quarter. But the drive stalled deep in OA territory, with Stoughton turning the ball over on downs.
However, on Stoughton’s next offensive drive, the Black Knights did cash in, with a 53-yard touchdown pass from Fernandes to Middleton to put Stoughton up 7-0 with 1:35 left in the first.
Oliver Ames scored their only points of the first half on a Ryan McGrath 37-yard field goal with 6:16 left in the second.
“If we had done what we were supposed to do last week [beat Canton], this is a huge game because we’re in the playoffs now,” Artz said. “I told the kids they were celebrating like it was over and it’s not.”
“We have to keep focused,” he continued, “because we’ll look real silly if we don’t win on Thanksgiving after doing something like this.”
“We got one game left, who knows what’s going to happen,” Burke said.
“I can’t worry about [scoreboard watching] now,” he said. “I have to make sure my kids are ok and we’ll go from there."
Oliver Ames travels to Sharon on Thanksgiving and Stoughton travels to Canton on Thanksgiving in the final regular season game for both teams.
Ryan Lanigan contributed reporting.