OAKLEY — When the Oakley and Lapwai football teams faced off in the first round of the playoffs last year, it was a tight, back-and-forth battle all the way to the end, from which Oakley eventually emerged victorious. Friday night’s rematch had all the makings of a similar conflict.
It quickly turned into a laugher.
Behind a stellar defensive performance and more than enough offense, the Hornets pounded their way to a 56-12 win over Lapwai Friday night at Oakley High School in the first round of the 1A Division I state playoffs.
“This felt pretty good,” said Oakley sophomore quarterback Chandler Jones. “We’ve been on quite a bit of a roll the past few weeks and we keep getting better. This was one of our better games of the year.”
“Lapwai is a great football team, just like they were last year,” said Oakley head coach Kade Craner. “We wanted to see where we measured up against some of those teams from up north. I was happy we got started fast tonight.”
After punting on its first possession, Oakley quickly got the ball back and finally found the end zone when Jones found junior wide receiver Jake Pulsipher for a 12-yard touchdown.
The rout was on.
Jones and Pulsipher connected for scores two more times on the night — a 10-yard pass in the second quarter and a 13-yarder in the fourth. With a smash-mouth, downhill running game churning out yards like a factory for the Hornets, things were wide open downfield. It led to Oakley scoring 28 points in the second quarter alone.
“After we started running the ball, the passing game was there,” Jones said. “Everything we do runs off the ground game. Once we got them biting on play action, we have that extra step downfield.”
“Big shout out to our offensive line,” said Oakley junior running back Austin Bedke. “They blocked great tonight. We had a game plan to block their four-man front, and it worked out for us.”
Sam Mitton struck paydirt in the second quarter as the points began to pile up. He scored on an electrifying 36-yard run, while Bedke and Jones added a pair of rushing scores as well.
“Everything we do is based off isos,” Craner said. “Once our isos start working, everything opens up. Tonight, we were able to do that and work the ball down the field.”
“This was a big confidence booster for us,” Pulsipher said. “This was a statement to prove that we are the real deal and that we can take it all.”
If Oakley’s offense was impressive, its defense was straight up ridiculous. Against the Hornets’ hyper-aggressive front five, anything Lapwai attempted was snuffed out before it began. With numerous sacks and tackles for loss, they held the Wildcats to negative total yards in the first half.
“I love defense. That’s what I coach,” Craner said. “Defense wins championships, and we’ve talked about that for the last 10 years. We pride ourselves on defense. We wanted to play physical, and we did that.”
The Hornets went into the locker room at halftime with a 36-0 lead.
The Wildcats finally erased the goose egg on the scoreboard when Keith Kipp Jr. raced up the sideline for a 44-yard touchdown minutes into the fourth quarter.
The win put the Hornets in a semifinal matchup with Prairie next week, a game that Oakley enters with a ton of confidence.
“We’re on to the next step of the playoffs,” Bedke said. “I know Prairie is very well-coached and has a good team year in and year out. I’m sure they’ll be a good opponent.”
Oakley 56, Lapwai 12
Lapwai 0 0 0 12 — 12
Oakley 8 28 8 12 — 56
O — Jake Pulsipher 12 pass from Chandler Jones (Sam Mitton run) 1:55
O — Mitton 36 run (Mitton run) 11:39
O — Austin Bedke 2 run (Jones run) 7:13
O — Jones 8 run (pass fail) 2:53
O — Pulsipher 10 pass from Jones (pass fail) :45
O — Mitton 27 pass from Jones (Mitton run) 4:16
O — Jones 20 run (pass fail) 10:47
L — Keith Kipp Jr. 44 run (pass fail) 7:30
O — Pulsipher 13 pass from Jones (pass fail) 6:48
L — Pox Young 6 run (run fail) 2:49