In Play with Tom Markowski

Oak Park's defense stymies Harrison

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Farmington Hills – Stop John Kelly and you stop Oak Park.

That’s a line that’s been said over and over on sidelines in southeast Michigan. Kelly is a senior all-purpose back rated as one of the state’s top players and many times he’s taken over games with his athleticism and strength.

On Friday Farmington Hills Harrison contained Kelly for the most part. Kelly had 87 yards on 18 carries and he only got loose once, a 47-yard run in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game was all but decided.

Kelly played well but he wasn’t the reason Oak Park thumped Harrison, 27-0, on Friday. It was Oak Park’s defense that made the difference.

Last year, on this same field, Harrison and quarterback Jevon Shaw shredded Oak Park’s defense. Harrison won a wild one, 60-52, and that outcome, more than any of the other four losses Oak Park’s suffered last season, stuck with the Knights.

Led by senior linebacker Junior McMullen Oak Park held Harrison to 154 yards. The Knights forced four turnovers, two they converted into their first two touchdowns.

“We just did what our coaches wanted us to do,” McMullen said. “Our main goal was to shut down (Shaw). We knew if we shut him down we’d win.

“What we knew is that he liked to get to the outside. We wanted to keep him in the middle of the field.”

Shaw completed 13 of 28 attempts for 111 yards and had but 16 yards rushing.

His counterpart, Chauncey Loman, was 9-14 for 139 yards and one interception.

Oak Park (2-1 moved to 2-0 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division and Harrison (2-1) is 1-1.

It was a sloppy game in many respects. Harrison had 12 penalties for 142 yards and Oak Park had nine for 90.  

Shahid Bellamy’s fumble recovery with 2:55 left in the first quarter gave Oak Park possession on its 43. Eight plays later Juan Hernandez ran a reverse six yards for a touchdown and Oak Park led 7-0 with 9:34 left in the half. Loman’s 29-yard pass to Miles Daniels help set up the score.

Neither team established any offensive flow in the first 24 minutes. Harrison had two turnovers; Oak Park one. There were a handful of major penalties and both defensive lines surrendered yards begrudgingly. Oak Park rushed for 27 yards and Harrison was held for 14.

This was in no way a typical Harrison game. The Hawks played well in its first two games and no one could see this type of performance coming from a John Herrington-coached team.

“In the first half we played good defense,” Herrington said. “We’d fumble or throw an interception. I thought we did a good job stopping Kelly.

“They’re big and fast. They’re a physical team. McMullen did a good job stopping the run. We lost poise a little bit. We couldn’t get anything going.”