OAK HILL – Princeton senior Brodee Rice tallied 79 yards on the ground Friday night against Oak Hill at John P. Duda Stadium.
The final yard was what mattered the most.
With his team trailing by three points in the third overtime period, Rice crashed in on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line to give the Tigers a thrilling 20-17 triple-overtime win over the Red Devils.
“We had a bad week of preparation in practice and took this team a little lighter than we should have, but we fought our tails off all game” Rice said. “We knew what we had to do at the end and we did it.”
The game-winning touchdown was only part of the story for Rice.
After Oak Hill could not score in the first overtime period, Rice appeared to have won the game for the Tigers when he barreled towards the goal line, only to have the ball punched free.
The ensuing fumble recovery by the Red Devils sent the game to second overtime session.
Princeton head coach Chris Pedigo never blinked and gave the ball right back to his bruising back.
“We have some good running backs. Marquel (Lowe) had some good runs there, but Brodee has been here and he doesn’t fumble the ball very much,” Pedigo said. “There wasn’t anybody more disappointed with that fumble than Brodee. We know what he can do and we felt like we could give it right back to him. We needed downhill running tonight and Brodee was able to capitalize.”
Rice responded with a nine-yard scoring burst to give Princeton the seven-point lead in the second OT, but Oak Hill answered with a one-yard plunge from Omar Lewis to tie the game.
“It’s my senior year and I have worked my butt off all four years trying to earn trust like that from the coaches. It was an honor, honestly, for them to put that trust back into me after that fumble,” Rice said.
While Rice scored the winner, he gave credit to a teammate for his selfless act that paved the way.
“Khamrin Proffitt walked up to the coach and said put me in and I will lead block for him. We are going to score and win this game,” Rice recalled.
With Oak Hill coming off a disappointing lopsided loss at Independence last Friday, Pedigo knew his team would be in for a dogfight against the Red Devils.
The problem for Princeton, however, the players didn’t necessarily buy into that concept.
“The one thing our team has to be better at is preparation,” Pedigo said. “I didn’t like our preparation this week. To be honest, we have had a few days each week where the preparation hasn’t been great, but then we came out and played well. Tonight, we did not play well.”
“(Oak Hill head) Coach Moneypenny had those guys dialed in. It was a really great offensive effort by them trying to keep the ball away from us and an even better defensive effort,” Pedigo went on to say. “They stymied everything we were doing and we couldn’t get in a rhythm. We feel like we are pretty good on offense, but it was tough tonight. At the end of the night though, we have to give credit to our kids. They kept fighting. If you win by three or 33, it’s the same.”
Oak Hill struck first when Ethan Vargo-Thomas picked off a Grant Cochran pass and returned it 55 yards for the 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
Although the Tigers sputtered most of the night on offense, they were able to even the game when Cochran hit Dominick Collins on a 27-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes to play in the opening half.
“They did a great job of mixing up coverage. They were pressing Dom and then playing loose on Dom. We just couldn’t get the ball out in space like we wanted to,” Pedigo said. “We didn’t execute and we didn’t throw some great balls tonight. We have to do a better job of reading the defenses and taking what they give us. We also had a lot of missed assignments.”
“We did some different things this week on defense and moved some people around to some places that we thought might help us and it seemed to,” Moneypenny said. “We put some man coverage in and just some little things. The bottom line is, wherever we put them, they played hard. It’s a tough one to lose when you play that hard.”
The second half belong to the defenses, but with 6:23 to play the Red Devils mounted their best drive of the night.
Using 12 plays, Oak Hill grinded its way deep into Princeton territory before being stopped at the nine yard line in the final seconds.
Unfortunately for the home team, the game winning field goal by Vargo-Thomas slid wide to the right. That kick came after a 45-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter fell just short of the mark.
“I was just hoping he would miss it,” Pedigo said. “We put our field goal block in there and tried to create a push. It was unfortunate for him because he had a heck of a game tonight. I can’t say enough about Oak Hill. I tip my cap to Coach Moneypenny and his staff. We were fortunate to get the (win) tonight.”
On a night where his team left all it had on the field, Moneypenny had nothing but praise for his team’s effort.
“We are trying to explain that to them, but it’s tough looking at these boys with that disappointment. All they see is the scoreboard,” Moneypenny said “They played extremely hard against a really good football team. It is tough losing, but that was one of the most exciting football games I have ever seen. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We just came up a little short.”
Princeton (3-0) is off next Friday before traveling to Lord Botetourt, Va. in two weeks. Oak Hill (1-2) travels to Lincoln County Friday.
P: 0 7 0 0 0 7 6 -20
OH: 0 7 0 0 0 7 3 – 17
OH: Vargo-Thomas 55 INT return (Vargo-Thomas kick)
P: Collins 27 pass from Cochran (Casey Geso kick)
P: Rice 9 run (Geso kick)
OH: lewsi 1 run (Vargo-Thomas kick)
OH: Vargo-Thomas 33 FG
P: Rice 1 run
Rushing: (P) Lowe 14-83, Rice 14-79-2, Brad Mosser 2-3, Proffitt 1-2, Cochran 1-7; OH: Omar Lewis 9-13-1, Alex Colaiseno 2 (-16), Alex Baxter 13-33, J.D. Mauritz 15 (-3), Vargo-Thomas 9-47, Trent Rider 4-22, Elijah Gray 2-8, James Green 1 (-1).
Passing: (P) Cochran 13-25-104-2-1; (oh) Colaiseno1-3-5-1-0
Receiving: (P) Collins 7-50-1, Mosser 3-36, Carter Meachum 2-13, Davon Edwards 1-9; (OH) Rider 1-5