OAK HILL — In a game of big momentum shifts, Roane County had the last big push.
And the Raiders made it count, chewing up almost 10 minutes of the fourth-quarter clock on a 20-play drive before getting the decisive score, a one-yard sneak by quarterback Evan Kendall that allowed the visitors to escape with a 27-26 verdict over the Oak Hill Red Devils.
“As soon as we got the ball (at their own 36 after Oak Hill turned it over on downs), I kept watching the clock,” said Kendall, who also scored on an earlier one-yard run and connected with receiver Eddie Williams on a 60-yard TD pass in the midst of a 21-0 Raider spurt in the second period. “I knew we could do it.
“We just put it on the shoulders of the O-line, and sophomore fullback Eric McKay put it down their throats.” McKay rushed five times for 28 yards during the drive, including an eight-yarder which set up Kendall’s game-clincher.
“We showed a lot of character tonight,” said winning coach Tom Hardman, a 1975 graduate of Collins High School whose team stumbled out of the gates with an 0-4 mark in 2005. “This is the last go-around for these seniors, because we’re not going to make the playoffs.”
For the Red Devils, it was a case of crucial penalties in the latter going that sealed their doom. At several points during the winning drive, the hosts were whistled for flags at inopportune times.
Early on, Oak Hill’s Luke Lively picked off a Kendall pass but the play was negated by a holding penalty on the Red Devils. Later, after Frankie Treadway and Alex Ashley had trapped Kendall for a 12-yard loss to set up a punt, Oak Hill was flagged for roughing the kicker and Roane had a fresh set of downs. Five plays later, an interference flag was dropped on the Devils during a Kendall-to-Cruise Lawson pass attempt on third-and-7, and Roane had another first-and-10 at the OH 32.
“Penalties just absolutely killed us in the fourth quarter,” said first-year coach Toby Harris, who added that the pass interference call came on an “insignificant” portion of the play “25 yards from the ball.”
“We played good enough; we just seem to be snakebit. It’s just not falling into place for us,” Harris added.
Oak Hill got the ball with 1:49 to go but couldn’t advance the pigskin and ended up punting 38 seconds later, allowing Kendall to take a knee three straight times to kill the clock.
The Devils had forced the Raiders into the do-or-die situation when Josh Arrington snagged a Kendall fumble in mid-air and legged it 50 yards for a 26-21 lead with 1:37 left in the third frame.
“Give them credit; they moved the ball,” said Harris. “I was a little surprised they were able to run like they did.”
“We put it in the offensive line’s hands in the last series, and that was impressive to me,” countered Hardman, whose mother, Connie Withrow, still resides in Oak Hill.
Oak Hill put Roane in an early 14-0 hole on the strength of two Justin Canada touchdowns (covering 70 and 1 yards).
“Boom, boom, we’re down two touchdowns,” said Hardman. “Give Oak Hill credit. Coach Harris and his staff are doing a great job with them. They’re fundamentally sound.”
After Oak Hill’s initial surge, Roane responded with three straight scores in the second period to go ahead 21-14.
“We weren’t exactly ready in the first quarter,” said Kendall.
The Red Devils closed out the first half with a 32-yard scoring hookup between Arrington, the quarterback, and Josh Murray with just 21 ticks left. Arrington completed a 15-yarder to Murray and an 11-yarder to Canada during that drive.
Kendall was 7-of-12 for 136 yards and the score to pace the Raiders. Joe Caldwell accounted for 100 total yards (54 rushing, 46 receiving).
For Oak Hill, Canada rushed 13 times for 79 yards and two scores, as well as catching the 11-yard pass. Arrington was 3-of-5 for 58 yards, with Murray catching two balls for 47 stripes and the six-pointer.
Oak Hill (2-6) hosts Mount View Friday.
Roane County (4-5) is idle Friday before entertaining Sherman Nov. 4.