Eaton ‘comes together’ for emotional 31-21 win over Oakwood


OAKWOOD — What was an emotional week surrounding the Eaton football program and the school district, the team turned to each other for support and came away with a hard-fought 31-21 win over Oakwood in the Southwestern Buckeye League opener for both teams on Friday, Sept. 8.

The Eagles were mourning the loss of Rhonda Winings, long-time teacher, and parent of a member of the team, to cancer earlier in the week.

“It’s been tough,” Eaton coach Brad Davis said. “I think the kids did a great job. Super proud of their focus. That’s a testament to the team, to the leaders. This week was just about us. Just love each other. And if we’re going to come together as a team, this is the week we’re going to do it.”

For the first time this season, the Eagles found themselves trailing in a game.

The Lumberjacks scored on their first offensive play of the game – an 82-yard pass – after recovering an Eaton fumble.

After an Eaton punt and an Oakwood turnover, the Eagles went to work.

Brycen Simpson (9 carries, 39 yards, 2 TD) put Eaton on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:08 left in the first quarter and after Jon Hewitt’s PAT, the game was tied at 7-7.

Oakwood then drove to Eaton’s 38-yard line, but the Eagles defensive held and forced a turnover on downs.

Eaton then drove 62-yards to take the lead at 14-7 on a Cordis Berard (12 carries, 44 yards) 6-yard TD run with 8:05 left in the second quarter.

Oakwood took advantage of an Eaton turnover later in the quarter to tie the game at 14-14 on a 10-yard touchdown run with 1:22 left in the half.

Eaton, though, responded, driving into Oakwood territory, where Hewitt nailed a 32-yard field as time expired to give his team a 17-14 lead.

The second half started slow for both teams as Oakwood punted on its first two possessions and Eaton fumbled on its first possession.

On Eaton’s second possession, quarterback Chris Atkins (23-of-30, 301 yards) hooked up with Leslie Orr (6 catches, 108 yards) for a 50-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 24-14 lead with 4:43 left in the third quarter.

Oakwood then drove deep into Eaton territory and set up for a field goal attempt, but the Eagles Brayden Deem blocked the attempt, which would have made it a possession game.

“Huge,” Davis said of the play. “We saw some things on film that we thought block left was good. We love the way he (Deem) turns the corner most times. He was close early. So, we felt pretty good about that one. Being the score, what the score was at that time it was just a huge momentum swing for us.”

Although Eaton didn’t score on its next drive, the Eagles were able to take time off the clock and get the game into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead.

The Lumberjacks had a chance to close the gap, but a wide-open receiver got behind the Eagle defense but dropped a pass that would have been sure touchdown. Eaton defense then held and got the ball back for its offense with just under six minutes left in the game.

Simpson capped off the drive with a 10-yard run with 3:41 left in the game to give Eaton a 31-14 lead.

During the drive, which most thought Eaton was going to run, the Eagles dialed up a pass play to get them into scoring position.

“That’s coach Neanen,” Davis said. “He’s going to be aggressive, and he likes to set plays up and I think he did an absolutely great job doing that. Chris made a great throw we (Conner Bach, 9 catches, 142 yards) made a great run after the catch, offensive line gave him protection. I don’t have any say on the offense. I can’t take any credit for that, that’s coach Neanen and the offensive coaches.”

The Lumberjacks managed to make the final minutes exciting. They scored on a 28-yard pass with 1:24 left then recovered an onside kick, but eventually fumbled the ball away.

“We’re in league play now. It’s a dog fight every week. We tried to prepare the guys for that the best we can. A little bit different than our first three games and we knew that. But you don’t know until you get hit in the mouth,” Davis said. “Love the response in the third quarter. Had some things not go our way. We haven’t had a bunch of that so far this year. So that’s good for us to be able to respond to some of the negative things that happened during the ballgame.”

Eaton, now 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the SWBL Buckeye Division, will return home on Friday, Sept. 15, to host rival Valley View, who is also 4-0 and 1-0.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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