Bradley Stephens admitted he knew the Ooltewah Owls had a pretty good thing going in Friday night's eventual 42-20 win over visiting Shelbyville Central in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs, but a Shelbyville onside kick in the third quarter pretty much confirmed it.
"I think at that point we all realized they weren't going to stop our offense, so they needed to do something," the Owls' quarterback said after directing a 490-yard eruption that may have been Ooltewah's finest of the year.
In a game that was billed as evenly matched across the board, the only thing even about this game was the way the Owls distributed the carnage. From defense, to offense, to special teams, the hosts were absolutely lethal in earning a trip to top-ranked Powell next Friday.
"You want to be playing your best ball this time of the year obviously, but tonight we were pretty good," Owls coach Shannon Williams said. "Shelbyville is as good as or better than any team we have played this year, and I figured it would be a one- or two-possession game. I'm not surprised we won, but maybe a little that we were able to exert our will on them offensively."
The Owls scored on their first six possessions, converted eight of nine third-down possessions and didn't punt until the final two minutes. Ooltewah's first two scores pretty much provided the blueprint for the evening. On the first, the Owls went 94 yards on 11 plays alternating between pass plays and Desmond Pittman runs. The second one was 85 yards in 12 plays, and it was just as impressive.
"Our line did a fabulous job tonight," said Pittman, who ran 26 times for 200 yards and TDs of 3 and 27 yards. "And with our quarterback opening it up like he did, we just played off that. If we needed to run we did, and if we needed to pass we did. It is going to be nice going to practice on Monday."
Stephens was 12-of-14 for 205 yards in the air, including scoring strikes of 25 yards to Mikhail Creech and 65 yards to P. J. Toney. And if the offense hadn't been so lethal, it would have been a night most folks would have talked about the Owls defense.
Except for three big plays resulting in Golden Eagles scores, Ooltewah was relentless in stopping 1,000-yard back Marquis Morton. He wound up with 46 yards on 17 carries as Ooltewah limited Shelbyville to 53 yards on the ground. Quarterback Luke Faulk had 222 aerial yards, but the Owls were never seriously threatened.
In fact, when the Golden Eagles pulled to within 35-20 with 1:41 left in the third quarter, they elected to onside kick simply because they had no chance of slowing the Owls offense.
"I told the kids not to worry about results, just to have fun. I think that's what we did tonight," Williams said.
T. J. Davis added an 8-yard scoring run and had 79 yards on seven carries, and Jay Rudwall ran 3 yards for the final tally.