Friday, October 26, 2012
Kennett holds off Oxford, sets up showdown with rival Unionville
OXFORD - It was by no means a work of art, but the Kennett High School football team knows that all that matters is it was a victory they had to have that now sets the state for their biggest game since the re-birth of their program.
On Friday night, Kennett kept its division title and district playoff hopes alive as they went on the road and posted a 28-20 Ches-Mont League American Division victory over Oxford.
Senior running Jordan Lardani rushed for a game-high 102 yards and two touchdowns, and senior receiver Maalik Rochester caught a key 33-yard touchdown pass with 5:03 to go give the Blue Demons a 28-12 lead before they were eventually able to hold on down the stretch.
Kennett (4-1 American, 7-2 overall) now gears up to host archrival Unionville next Saturday at 2 p.m. in the regular season finale for both teams that has a ton at stake. Kennett will be seeking its first-ever victory over the Indians, and if they get it they will guarantee themselves of at least a share of the American Division title. Coming into Friday night’s game, Kennett also stood at No. 18 in the District 1 Class AAAA playoff point standings. The top-16 qualify, and a victory over Unionville next week would probably be enough to get the Blue Demons’ into districts for the first time.
“It’s the biggest game of my life next Saturday,” said Lardani. “No doubt about it. Everything is on the line for us -- our entire season hangs on this one game.
“We knew this was a must-win for us against Oxford to make the stakes very high for the Unionville game. We were well aware of the fact that we have to win out to have any shot at either the division title or a playoff berth.”
Lardani spearheaded a Kennett rushing attack that grounded up 295 yards against Oxford (1-5, 4-5). C.J. Lowe added 86 yards and touchdown, and quarterback Jordan Jones rushed for 74 yards as well.
Kennett led 15-0 at halftime, thanks to some key stops by its defense. Oxford twice had the ball inside the Kennett 20-yard line in final five minutes of the half, but on both occasions came away empty handed as Kennett’s defense stopped them on downs.
Oxford found some momentum, though, on the opening kickoff of the second half as Colton Turns busted one 82 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 15-6.
“We felt fortunate to be up 15-0 at halftime,” said Kennett coach Scott Green. “We were able to get some big stops, but then they came right out to start the third quarter with that big kickoff return.
“We were able to answer the bell and go right back down the field with a big drive. That showed some resiliency and the character of our team really shined in that situation.”
Kennett answered Turns’ kickoff return with a 75-yard touchdown drive. Lardani capped it with his second touchdown of the night, a 2-yard run, to give the Blue Demons a 21-6 lead with 7:27 to go in the third period.
Oxford, who has now lost five of its last six games after a 3-0 start, fought hard all night long. Turns, who had a big game with a team-high 84 yards rushing, got the Hornets right back into the game with a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 21-12 after a second costly missed extra point.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Oxford had the ball at the Kennett 28-yard line but was stopped on downs when Ethan Herb’s pass fell incomplete.
Kennett appeared to put the game away right after that when Rochester hauled in the 33-yard touchdown catch from Jones. That score with 5:03 to play gave the Blue Demons a 28-12 lead.
Oxford clawed back again, as they cut the deficit to 28-20 with 1:39 to go following a 20-yard touchdown reception by Ryan Hubley. Turns added a two-point conversion run.
Oxford’s ensuing onside kick, however, only didn’t come close to traveling the 10 yards needed and died on the grass allowing Kennett to take over and run out the clock from there.
“We were on their side of the field a lot, and we left a lot of points out there,” said Oxford coach Mike Pietlock. “That’s been the story of our season. We couldn’t get points in those situations, and I put that on myself as the coach.”
Kennett has now won four straight games. By doing so, they put themselves in position to play a big game this coming weekend against Unionville.
“We knew this was a win that we needed tonight against Oxford,” said Green. “It wasn’t pretty but we’ll certainly take it. Now we have an opportunity next week against Unionville, and all we could ask for was an opportunity.
“I know the kids are going to be excited for this one all week, and they are really looking forward to the challenge.”
Kennett 28, Oxford 20
Kennett 8 7 6 7 -- 28
Oxford 0 0 12 8 -- 20
K-Lowe 13 run (McQuiston run)
K-Lardani 34 run (Rose kick)
OX-Turns 82 kickoff return (Kick failed)
K-Lardani 2 run (Kick failed)
OX-Turns 5 run (Kick failed)
K-Rochester 33 pass from Jones (Rose kick)
OX-Hubley 20 pass from Herb (Turns run)
First downs 11 10
Yards rushing 295 129
Yards passing 51 105
Total yards 346 234
Passing 4-7-0 6-19-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties 12-80 1-5
Punts-Avg. 6-25.0 2-30.5
RUSHING - Kennett: Lardani 18-102, 2TDs; Lowe 12-86, TD; Jones 10-74; McQuiston 4-33. Oxford: Turns 22-84, TD; Way 5-22; Rosa 2-12; Lopez 2-6; Herb 9-5.
PASSING - Kennett: Jones 4-7, 51 yds, TD. Oxford: Herb 6-19, 105 yds, TD, INT.
RECEIVING - Kennett: Rochester 3-41, TD; Clarke 1-10. Oxford: Hubley 2-51, TD; Dawkins 2-39, Sumner 2-15.
SACKS - Kennett: Niewinski, Masha. Oxford: Wolfe.
INTERCEPTIONS - Kennett: Turner. Oxford: none.