By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
FAIRMOUNT, Ind. — Using a strong rushing attack and a steady defense, Oak Hill was able to pull away from host Madison-Grant 40-14 in the Class 2A, Sectional 36 opener Friday night.
Coming into the game, the teams had combined for more than 6,000 rushing yards and only 700 passing yards so a grind-it-out game was expected. Neither team disappointed, but it was Oak Hill that gained an early advantage.
The Golden Eagles scored on their first possession, a 10-play, 60-yard drive after receiving the opening kickoff. Fullback Ethan Bowland went up the middle and dove over the pile for a 4-yard touchdown run. After the extra point, the Golden Eagles led 7-0 with 7:38 to go in the first.
Madison-Grant’s Austin Purkey returned the kickoff to the 43 but fumbled on the second play of the possession, giving the ball to Oak Hill at the Eagles’ 44.
Oak Hill drove 56 yards in nine plays, with Zach Daniels scoring on a pitch to the left side from 20 yards out. After the extra point, Oak Hill led 14-0 with 116 yards of offense while Madison-Grant had run two plays for 13 yards.
The Argylls got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when Purkey faked a handoff and went on a 29-yard sprint to the end zone. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving the Argylls down 14-6.
Oak Hill went on another long drive, going 65 yards in 12 plays to take a 20-6 lead with 5:38 left in the half when Nick McPike scored from 5 yards out. The drive was costly, however, as starting quarterback Derrick Randall went out with a leg injury. Randall was hit as he tried to recover a fumbled handoff and did not return in the half, although he did start the third quarter.
Trailing by two touchdowns, the Argylls received the second-half kickoff but failed to convert on fourth down and turned the ball over to Oak Hill.
The Golden Eagles once again grinded out a long drive, this time going 62 yards on 12 plays before Daniels scored on a pitch to the right side.
The Argylls again turned the ball over on downs but forced the Golden Eagles to punt for the first time on the night. The advantage, however, went to Oak Hill as the punt was downed at the 9, and a penalty took the ball back to the 4.
Madison-Grant ran three plays for no yards, and Purkey attempted a pass on fourth down. It was just out of Cameron Myers’ reach, and Oak Hill took over 4 yards out of the end zone.
Bowland crashed in from the 1 on second down to give the Golden Eagles a 33-6 advantage.
Madison-Grant showed life on the next possession, however, as Purkey made two key plays to score a touchdown. On a fourth-and-9 at the Argylls’ 20, Purkey faked a handoff to Myers and sprinted 54 yards to the Golden Eagles’ 26. Later, Purkey hit Dakota Brooks with a short pass over the middle, and Brooks ran untouched into the end zone.
Myers ran the ball in for the 2-point conversion, and the Argylls had a shot with 8:23 left in the game.
The Argylls were close to recovering the onside kick, but the ball went out of bounds, and Oak Hill took over.
The Argylls forced a fumble, and Brooks recovered it but once again the drive stalled.
Oak Hill went in for the final score when Daniels scored his third touchdown of the night on a 19-yard run with 1:59 left.
Unofficially, Oak Hill outgained Madison- Grant 335-240. All of the yards gained by the Golden Eagles were rushing yards.
“We struggled tackling,” Madison-Grant coach Craig Barr said. “It’s a tough situation when we had the turnover on the first possession. We turned it over, they got up 14 and we struggled. We’re not a good come-from-behind team.”
Barr was disappointed with the loss, feeling the Argylls were close to a breakthrough. He took over the program in June, a short turnaround for a new coach and staff. Barr lauded his senior class for sticking with the program through a rough time.
“The coach (former coach Beau Engle) left in May, the kids met me in June,” Barr said. “That’s a tough go for seniors, and then we didn’t come out winning, but those kids stuck with it. That’s a high character group of young men, work ethic, leadership, I could not be prouder. They set the bar for the future of this program.”
The Argylls will lose several members of their offensive line along with Purkey but will return some key skill position players. The Argylls also battled through weeks of injuries and illness, including this week when Barr had 25 of 44 players in pads for practice.
“We need to get in the weight room and get stronger,” Barr said. “We’re going to press on, and we’ve got some good kids.”
Argyll seniors include Austin Purkey, Griffin Engle, Drew Smith, Curtis Presnall, Conner Martin, John Finley, John Hanes, Alex Garringer, Adam Gibson and Bryce Wilson.
Oak Hill (7-3) advances to play Bluffton in next week’s semifinals.