July 28, 2014

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High school football: Oberlin off to 5-0 start after rolling over Firelands

HENRIETTA TWP. — The Oberlin Phoenix is 5-0.

Let that sink in for a while, because it’s been a few years since that happened.

The Phoenix (2-0 Patriot Athletic Conference) renewed acquaintances Friday night with crossover rival Firelands and showed the Homecoming crowd at Falcons Stadium pretty quickly that it’s not the same old Oberlin team.

Senior quarterback Jason Moore Jr. threw a 46-yard touchdown pass on his third play from scrimmage, and he and his cousin, senior tailback Kalif Townsel, combined to gain 330 of Oberlin’s 353 yards rushing, leading Oberlin to a 28-6 victory.

The win was Oberlin’s first over its old Lorain County Conference rival since 1999.

“This has been one of our biggest rivals for years, going back to when I was born,” said Moore, who rushed for 195 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns. “I was a kid and I would come to watch this specific game, and I wanted to play in this game and help us win.

“I’m here now, and we did what we had to do.”

With the Stripes Division schedule coming up, Oberlin has the best record of the 12 teams in the PAC.

“We feel very good about (being 5-0),” coach Fred Howery said. “We feel fortunate. We’ve overcome some injuries and we’re still young. But my seniors are leading, and they’re leading very well right now.

“We knew tonight was going to be a rough, hard-fought game here. We prepared for it. We expected them to come out on their Homecoming charged up, and we’re right around the corner from them. We came out, played our game and did our job. I’m very proud of our guys, but we’re not satisfied.”

Oberlin was set up nicely for its first possession after an 8-yard punt. Moore hit junior running back Tyler Thomas on a slant, and Thomas sprinted past the defense for a 46-yard touchdown to give Oberlin a 7-0 lead.

“We practiced that play all week,” said Moore, who connected on his first four passes and wound up 5-for-18 for 94 yards. “We kind of figured that it would be there and I saw it and I got it to my boy Tyler, and he got the job done.”

Thomas also made a key play early in the second quarter when Joe Hyster picked off a Moore pass at the Firelands 15 and had nothing but daylight in front of him. But Thomas chased down Hyster from behind at the Oberlin 17, and the Falcons proceeded to lose 25 yards on their next three plays to get nothing from the turnover.

“This was a total team effort,” Howery said. “But if you don’t have Tyler Thomas track down (Hyster) on that interception, they just tied the ballgame up. So that’s a huge play.

“Tyler Thomas is commended tonight, because he’s the one who had some big hits. He played his butt off tonight and he’s done a tremendous job for us on both sides of the ball.”

A 44-yard run by Moore keyed a seven-play, 73-yard drive on Oberlin’s ensuing possession. Townsel, who finished with 135 yards on 23 carries, capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to give the Phoenix a 14-0 halftime lead.

“This was a great win for us,” Townsel said. “All week long in practice, all we kept thinking about was this game. We’ve wanted this for a long time, since I’ve been here, and we came out and got the job done.”

The Falcons, one year removed from a 10-0 regular season and trip to the playoffs, fell to 0-5.

However, they showed their fans a glimpse of the future when freshmen Aaron Stevanus and Brad Thrasher led a seven-play scoring drive. Stevanus, who finished with 87 yards on 18 carries, capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

“We have a bunch of freshmen out there,” Firelands coach Mike Passerrello said. “When our center’s a freshman and our running back’s a freshman and our backup quarterback’s a freshman, that’s just a part of it. We’re going to keep battling, but that was the most complete game we’ve played so far.

“Last year was a great year, but that’s over with. I think we have to continue to improve and want to continue to improve and believe in ourselves. We’re going to keep building this program and doing things the right way.”

CROSSTOWN RIVALRY? Firelands is a lot closer to Vermilion geographically than it is to Oberlin. However, because the school’s address has an Oberlin zip code, the OHSAA recognizes it as “Oberlin Firelands.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.