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FOOTBALL: Southfield Escapes With 20-12 Victory Over OAA-White Foe Oak Park

   | Branden Hunter

FOOTBALL: Southfield Escapes With 20-12 Victory Over OAA-White Foe Oak Park

OAK PARK - Southfield High and Oak Park High share a city border along Greenfield Rd., and the battles between the two high schools on the gridiron the past two seasons, have been some of the best in the state. Oak Park defeated Southfield twice last season, 24-18 in a week four showdown, and 19-12 in a Division 2 District Final.

This time around, it would be Southfield walking off the field as the victors, as they took care of Oak Park 20-12 Friday night. Neither offense moved the ball particularly well on the night, mainly due to the poor weather conditions. In all both teams combined for four turnovers, three of them coming on fumbles.

With barely two minutes gone off the opening clock, Southfield struck first on offense, and never looked back. A mishandled snap, on a punt attempt by Oak Park's Martez Morton gave Southfield great field position on the 9-yard line. Senior running back Jeremy Gates would score just one play later, giving Southfield the early 6-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Blue Jays next three drives after that first touchdown, consisted of a fumble, a turnover on downs, and a punt. Oak Park wasn't any better on offense either, recording five punts, and two fumbles in the first half alone. Nearing the end of the first half, Southfield added more pressure on Oak Park to get their offense going, before the game got too out of reach.

Quarterback and Bowling Green commit Jalen Brady hit 6-4 wide receiver Devontae Alfred for a 6-yard touchdown reception over two defenders, for the 13-6 lead with :26.6 seconds left before the half. The Blue Jay defense also did it's part in the win over Oak Park. Led by super recruits Malik McDowell and Lawrence Marshall (Michigan), they held Oak Park running back John Kelly to just 56 yards on 22 carries.

Oak Park finally got on the board early in the third quarter, on their first possession. They used 11 plays to march 82-yards down the field, on a drive that lasted six minutes. Jordan Leonard capped the drive off with a nice quarterback bootleg, that fooled the Southfield defense from 3-yards out. The game remained close all night, with neither team really looking like it could pull away. Oak Park began to gain momentum on both sides of the ball late in the fourth quarter.

After forcing Southfield into punts on consecutive possessions, the Knights had good field position on their own, and where looking to even things at 13-13, with just under eight minutes remaining. Leonard dropped back for Oak Park, targeted his receiver who was streaking over the middle, and released the ball. The ball slipped through the receiver's hands, and right into the lap of Southfield's safety, Davontae Ginwright. Ginwright returned the interception for a touchdown, but it was brought back on a holding penalty to the 15-yard line.

Southfield wasted no putting more points on the scoreboard, as backup quarterback Kanye Harris took a sweep around the right side, 15-yards for a touchdown. Southfield now led 20-6, with 5:18 left in the game. Still, five minutes was more than enough for Oak Park to make a comeback, and they would answer on the ensuing possession.

The Knights once again drove the field on Southfield's defense, who looked liked they began to tire. On fourth and goal, Leonard found receiver Chauncey Lowman wide open in the endzone from 6-yards out, that pulled Oak Park within eight, at 20-12. The drive spanned just 51-yards, but used of 2:08 off the clock, time Oak Park didn't have, and only 1:20 remained.

Oak Park lined up for an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by the Southfield hands team. Oak Park did force Southfield into a 3rd and 9 situation with just under a minute remaining, but Harris was able to convert the quarterback keeper into a first down, and run out the clock.

Southfield escaped with a 20-12 victory, and have pushed their record to 3-1 on the season. Oak Park fell to 3-1 also, but don't be surprised if the two teams meet up again in the state playoffs for round two.

"We gave them a lot of opportunities to keep a few drives going," said Oak Park head coach Greg Carter after the loss. "Obviously they don't need any help, and they're a really good team."