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BUCKNER-- The opportunities were there. And Oldham County whiffed.
The Colonels fumbled twice inside the one-yard line and were called for some costly penalties as visiting North Oldham pulled away late for a 31-20 win last night.
It was the Mustangs’ first win over both Oldham County and a 6A opponent in the teams’ first ever meeting.
“We just came up to 4A and they were talking about how we had no chance because they were a 6A school and we were just a 4A school,” North Oldham junior running back Josh Smith said. “We had a lot of anger in our hearts and fire. We just came out tonight, gave it our best and I guess our best paid off.”
Clinging to a 24-20 lead, North Oldham (2-0) held tough when it needed to. With 5:40 left in the game, the Mustangs stopped Colonels senior running back Kerry Smith on fourth down and three at their own 36-yard line.
North Oldham (1-1) answered with a seven-yard touchdown by its own Smith on a jet sweep left. His seven-yard touchdown with 1:07 left in the game was the insurance the Mustangs needed to hold on.
North Oldham was outgained 371-276, but the Colonels’ fumbled twice inside the one-yard line. The Mustangs still rushed for 227 yards to Oldham County’s 261 yards and picked up big yardage when it mattered most.
“We’ve got an amazing offensive line,” North Oldham junior running back Jacob Raymond said. “They pushed us down there, knocking everybody’s butts and it was so easy to run. There so many huge holes to go through.”
North Oldham senior Zach Evans got the Mustangs on the board first with a 36-yard field goal on their first drive of the game. The Colonels mishaps began on the following drive, when Oldham County drove the ball down to the North Oldham four-yard line. Junior quarterback Brett Strnad rushed ahead for three yards but was stripped of the football. Mustangs junior defensive back Michael Choe recovered at the one-yard line.
North Oldham went three and out and punted and the Colonels needed just one play, a 30-yard run up the middle by Kerry Smith to take a 6-3 lead after a missed extra point. Oldham County went up 13-3 and seized the momentum with a Mustangs turnover on downs and a seven-yard run and spin into the end zone by junior running back Corbin Axtell.
As it would the rest of the night, North Oldham had an answer, as Evans took the kick return on a hop and raced 75 yards for a touchdown.
“We scored on that kick return right away and we were right back in it,” Martin said. “We just had to adjust to their speed a little bit and wearing ‘em down. Our kids did a good job of fighting and playing four quarters of football.”
The Colonels next big killer came on its ensuing drive, when on the drive’s 16th play, junior Jacob Taylor took a sweep left and appeared to be headed for the end zone. But the ball was popped loose, Taylor bobbled before he went across the goal line and the ball went out of bounds for a touchback.
“We did a lot of uncharacteristic things tonight and I think that’s because we’re young and inexperienced,” Brown said. “But on the flip side, I’ll take the blame for that and I’ll take it for the rest of the team.”
North Oldham capitalized on the mishap, when Raymond took a sweep right, made three tacklers miss and scampered 31 yards for a touchdown to give the Mustangs a 17-13 halftime lead.
Oldham County did catch a break after a punt on the second half’s first drive. Raymond mishandled the punt, which was recovered by the Colonels at his own 20-yard line.
But Oldham County handed the ball right back when Strnad fumbled on the ensuing play on a quarterback draw.
North Oldham gave it back on the next drive when Evans’ attempted handoff on a double reverse was mishandled. The Colonels recovered at their own 47-yard line and answered when Strnad bulled his way to the pile of players in the middle of the field and spun his way intp the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.
But leading up to and in the fourth quarter, Oldham County hurt itself with a number of mistakes. Aside from its two red zone fumbles, the Colonels were whistled for penalties nine times for 115 yards.
“We have a lot of guys that are young, a little inexperienced, that don’t necessarily know what they need to be doing right now,” Brown said. “That came back to haunt us tonight. A lot of these guys watched a whole lot last year and we’ve gotta get those guys up to speed as fast as we can.”
Josh Smith was the top threat of the Mustangs’ three-headed rushing attack, with 21 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown.
“After last week at Henry County, how our line blocked, I was very confident that they could get a couple of holes open,” he said. “They did get the holes open tonight, so I give most of the credit to them.”
Only two games in, North Oldham is riding a wave of confidence.
“I’m really happy for our kids because they kept their poise and fought hard,” Martin said. “They showed real experience and just didn’t panic, stayed in control. I was just very pleased overall with the whole thing.”
North Oldham will host Christian Academy of Louisville in its first home game of the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday while Oldham County will look to rebound against Collins at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
CORRECTION: The headline that was originally on this story and printed in the Sept. 1 edition of The Oldham Era included incorrect information about North Oldham High School. the school opened in 2003 and the building was previously a middle school. The Oldham Era regrets the error and will also run a correction in the Sept. 8 issue.