Leading 13-7 heading out of the locker room after halftime, hopes were high for Kirk Academy’s varsity Raiders as they looked to improve their Class AAAA, Region 1 record to a perfect 3-0.
However, the Raiders of Oak Hill had added motivation as fans packed the stands for the school’s annual Homecoming festivities. When the final buzzer sounded ending the contest, the home team had outscored Kirk Academy’s offense 17-0 to claim a 24-13 victory.
“We didn’t play very well across the board,” KA second-year head football coach Mike Beagle said following the loss. “I think some players were ready to play and I think others weren’t ready to play mentally. If you’re not ready to play collectively as a group, you get a hit and miss just like we got.”
Beagle added that he believes his team’s first offensive series proved to be crucial in the end.
“On the first drive, we throw the ball in there, get it picked down on the goal line and that kind of set the tempo,” he said. “We never really recovered from that in my personal opinion.”
Leading 7-0 following an 8-yard pass from Oak Hill quarterback Cameron Dill to Conner Freeman, the home Raiders’ defense stood strong and held Kirk to a 28-yard field goal kicked through the uprights by sophomore Gunner Vance to end the first quarter 7-3.
It was all Kirk Academy in the second quarter as senior quarterback Colbert Hathcock connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior tailback A.J. Wren with 9:39 remaining in the half. Vance added the PAT and also kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1:29 left in the quarter to give KA the lead.
“I thought Gunner did a good job kicking the ball,” Beagle said. “It was probably his best game kicking field goals and extra points. He was booming them before the game and I felt like we had a chance there. The kicking game kept us in the game for a while.”
Offensively, Beagle said his Raiders (4-2, 2-1) sputtered in the second half.
“We blocked well at some points, but the backs didn’t hit the landmarks like they’re supposed to,” he said. “We gave up some sacks and missed assignments up front.”
Kirk was held scoreless in the second half, while Oak Hill scored on runs of 1 yard and 3 yards by Dill as well as a Jack Easterling 20-yard field goal to capture the victory.
“Defensively, we didn’t very tackle well, which that’s normally not the case for us,” Beagle said. “They kept the ball almost the full third quarter and we couldn’t get the ball hardly. Our percentage of third down conversions was really poor.”
Beagle added that each Friday night is different and preparation is key.
“They out hustled us, they out executed us and they outplayed us,” he said. “When it comes to Friday night, it doesn’t matter about who beat who the week before or two weeks before that, it comes down to you have to be mentally ready to play every time you go out. You can’t give up concentration penalties. We never really got on track.”
Hathcock finished the night 9 of 23 passing for 143 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Wren caught three passes for 64 yards and a score, while senior Montgomery Ferguson had a pair of receptions for 40 yards and classmate Richard Flautt had twice that for 39 yards.
On the ground, Kirk ran for 125 of its 268 yards of total offense. Wren had 67 yards on 17 carries, sophomore tailback Theron Hubbard had eight carries for 47 yards and Hathcock toted the pigskin four times for 19 yards.
On defense, seniors Payton Mitchell and Flautt led the team with 5.5 tackles apiece. Mitchell and junior Lane Goss, who finished with 2.5 tackles, had the teams only tackles for losses with 1.5 each. Wren and senior Walker Staten each had 4.5 tackles. Senior Wyatt Buchanan scooped up a fumble.
Friday night, Kirk travels to Indianola Academy. Beagle said it will once again be a test for his team.
“They are physical up front on both sides, they have two good running backs, their quarterback is a good operator of what they do offensively and they don’t beat themselves,” he concluded. “We have to regroup and have some leadership within to get ourselves going again.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.