Who needs Desmond Pittman?
Well, Ooltewah's Owls probably do if they're to achieve all the goals they've laid out for themselves this high school football season. But they managed to win a key District 5-AAA game Friday night without him.
Edward Hayes and Brandon Byrd filled the void left by the area's second-leading rusher being out with an ankle injury, and the Owls found another way to win in defeating Bradley Central 28-26 at Ooltewah.
Hayes ran 12 times for 98 yards and a touchdown and Byrd contributed 55 yards on 10 carries. Their combined rushing yards came up just shy of the 159.3 Pittman is averaging, and Hayes also caught seven passes for 58 yards.
Quarterback Brody Binder was good on 9 of his first 10 passes and threw for 67 yards in a 62-yard scoring drive in the first quarter that included a 5-yard penalty on the Owls. Binder ended up 18-of-24 for 186 yards and ran 14 yards for a touchdown.
"We wanted to throw the ball and control the game through the air, like a running game," Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan said of his offensive game plan at the start. "We were running our tailback out and trying to pass; then later we tried to get back in our running game. They played very well. Our defense had hard times with them at times but made some big plays like they always seem to do when they need to."
The Bears behind quarterback Brett Standifer equaled the Owls' effort in the first half but trailed 14-13 at the break because of a low snap on the extra point after their second touchdown.
"There were a lot of adjustments that needed to be made in that game," Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. "You didn't have time to wait until halftime to make them. There are a lot of hard-fought games in this district. Basically it comes down to close games against good teams. I'm proud of our guys for fighting to the end."
Ooltewah (6-1, 3-0) had a high punt snap that led to a short scoring drive late in the game for Bradley (4-2, 1-1), but the Owls prospered in the kicking game overall. Floyd accepted that blame for his team.
In addition to the missed extra point, Bradley had a dropped snap on a punt and Tyler Reid made them pay with a tackle on the punter. Mike Williams also blocked Clayton Steels' 22-yard field goal with 4:34 to play, and the Bears had an illegal touch on the onside kick they recovered late.
Pittman dressed out for the game but ended up being a 200-plus-pound cheerleader.
"He's a dynamic physical player, but he showed he can also be a great sideline motivator," Bryan said. "He's part of this football team and was s vocal leader tonight while he wasn't playing."
Standifer was 20-for-36 for 250 yards with three touchdowns and a rushing TD. Dee Crisp led the Bears with 10 catches for 79 yards before injuring a knee when he was tackled with 6:34 to play. He'll have an MRI next week.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.