OAK HILL, Ohio — The Fairland Dragons, citing head coach Melvin Cunningham's research, wanted to be at least plus-two in the big-play ratio on Friday night.
Simply put, they were more than just that. The Dragons (2-0) defined themselves by such terms as "pick-six", "flea-flicker" and a "happy return," scoring touchdowns via way of all three en route to doubling up the Oak Hill Oaks 42-21 in a non-league football bout Friday at Davis Stadium.
Fairland's triumph broke a 14-14 tie in the series.
The Dragons did on Friday night what they do best, burn opponents for big plays with their athleticism in open space and also with speed.
"That's what we're blessed with. That's our identity," said Cunningham. "We try to find different ways to use our athletes to their strengths. We have to do that each week."
On Friday night, they scored on a short interception return for a touchdown, ran the old-fashioned flea-flicker for a score, and had a kickoff return for their final TD. In addition, the Dragons' defense did its part, holding the Oaks (0-2) to 59 first-half yards, along with back-to-back three-and-out series' in building an early 14-0 advantage.
Big plays were indeed the biggest difference.
"We preach this stat all the time, but 83 percent of the games are won by the teams that are at least plus-two in the big-play department," said Cunningham. "We focus on making big plays, and tonight we were capable of doing so. They (Oaks) lined up the way we thought they would, and we took advantage. Our receivers did a good job attacking some things we thought we could."
The backs didn't do bad, either. While Michael Stitt rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries, he made his most meaningful impact with a 15-yard interception return for a score, making it 14-0 with Emma Marshall's second of six successful extra-point kicks. That was with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the opening quarter, and immediately answered an Oak Hill interception of Fairland junior quarterback Max Ward at the Oaks' 8-yard line.
Stitt later capped the Dragons' scoring with a 68-yard kickoff return with 6:46 remaining.
Oak Hill head coach Paul Carver was impressed with Fairland's play-making ability.
"We just have to be able to stop those big plays," Carver said. "We got them into some third-and-longs, but we have to be prepared for big plays. Fairland is a very athletic team, they can pretty much do anything they want with athletes all over the place. We have to do a better job of getting those athletes down once they get out in space, and not give up so much over the top. They have good wide receivers, and they can run in three or four quarterbacks who can each throw the ball."
One of those gunslingers was Ward, who started and confidently commanded Fairland's offense, completing 11 of 18 passes for 163 yards, with five completions and 151 yards going to Gavin Hunt. On the Dragons' opening possession, Ward went deep to Hunt on a post pattern on third-and-12, picking up 43 yards from midfield. Zander Schmidt then took the direct snap at QB, and ran around the left end for a four-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead at the 7:07 mark. Schmidt and Hunt then hooked up on a flea-flicker play with a minute left in the second quarter for a 21-7 Fairland advantage.
That answered a short Oak Hill scoring drive - a nine-play, 36-yard march that ended with a nine-yard touchdown toss from Isaac Morgan to Alec Morgan. Brock Harden hit the extra-point kick, slicing the Oaks' deficit in half to 14-7.It was as close as Oak Hill came, though, as the Dragons scored the next 21 points to stake their largest advantage at 35-7 with nine minutes to play.
Following Fairland's late first-half score, the Dragons then forced a turnover on downs - when Schmidt sacked Morgan for a nine-yard loss to the Oaks' 41 with four-and-a-half minutes left in the third.
"That was a huge play," said Cunningham. "Zander Schmidt came off the edge and was able to make a big stop."
On Fairland's ensuing series, a Ward pass to Hunt picked up 13 yards and converted fourth-and-12 from the Oaks' 42, as Stitt scored his rushing touchdown from 20 yards away, making it 28-7 at the 1:55 mark with Marshall's fourth extra-point try.
FAIRLAND 14 7 7 14 42
OAK HILL 0 7 0 14 21
F - Schmidt, 4 run (Marshall kick)
F - Stitt, 15 int. return (Marshall kick)
OH - A. Morgan, 9-yard pass from I. Morgan (Harden kick)|
F - Hunt, 23 pass from Schmidt (Marshall kick)|
F - Stitt, 20 run (Marshall kick)
F - Hunt, 13 run (Marshall kick)
OH - Diltz, 10 run (Harden kick)
F - Stitt, 68 kickoff return (Marshall kick)
OH - Turner, 2 run (Boggs kick)
First downs 13 17
Plays from scrimmage 42 57
Rushes-yards 20-103 50-195
Passing yards 179 37
Total yards 282 232
Cmp-Att-Int. 13-22-1 3-7-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-20 9-74
Punts-average 2-27.5 2-40
RUSHING - Fairland: Michael Stitt 10-83 TD, J.D. Brumfield 5-13, Gavin Hunt 1-13 TD, Zander Schmidt 1-4 TD, Max Ward 2-(-4), Brennan West 1-(-6); Oak Hill: Triston Diltz 16-69 TD, Keaton Potter 10-46, Noah Donley 10-34, Nate Clutters 5-43, Jacob Turner 3-16 TD, Cameron Kerns 2-13, Isaac Morgan 2-(-3), Team 2-(-23)
PASSING - Fairland: Max Ward 11-18-1-163, Zander Schmidt 2-4-0-16 TD; Oak Hill: Darrick Boggs 1-1-0-24, Isaac Morgan 1-4-1-9 TD, Brock Harden 1-1-0-4, Keaton Potter 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING - Fairland: Gavin Hunt 5-151 TD, Michael Stitt 4-28, Brennan West 1-9, J.D. Brumfield 2-(-8), Jordan Williams 1-(-1); Oak Hill: Keaton Potter 1-24, Alec Morgan 1-9 TD, Braylon Howell 1-4