JaCoby Stevens, Oakland (Tenn.) stars shine in GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff opener

Lazarius Patterson Oakland’s (4) runs the ball down against Hillsboro.(Photo: Helen Comer/Daily News Journal)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — You want to look sharp on national television.

For the most part, both Oakland and visiting Hillsboro failed at accomplishing that feat Friday evening at Ray Hughes Stadium in the opening game of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff.

Fortunately for Oakland, the second-ranked Patriots were a little more sharp, particularly in the second half of a 41-13 win over the Burros.

“There were a lot of momentum killers involved in that game,” said Oakland coach Kevin Creasy. “You had three TV timeouts every quarter, and then the lightning delay. Once you got rolling, you were taking a timeout.”

In a game that featured 25 penalties for 203 yards, eight combined turnovers and an hour-long lightning delay, Oakland led just 10-6 at halftime but pulled away in the second half.

Hillsboro’s offense struggled for the second time in as many weeks (falling 9-7 to Pearl-Cohn last Saturday) while Oakland has allowed just six points in its two games.

Oakland racked up nearly 400 yards of offense against the stingy Burros defense.

“They hadn’t given up points in their scrimmages or last week in their first game,” Creasy said. “We struggled some in protection, but a lot of that had to do with them.”

Despite the sloppiness, some of the game’s top players did shine in the national spotlight.

Oakland’s JaCoby Stevens, an LSU commitment, caught a 45-yard touchdown pass and also had a 25-yard interception return, both in the second half. Teammate Kaleb Oliver, a Mississippi State commitment, made several big tackles, including a handful for losses.

Hillsboro’s Ben Hutch, who is getting major college offers as well, had some big plays and shined.

With 3:49 remaining in the first quarter, a lightning delay kept the game on hold for what ended up being close to an hour.

Fans were asked to exit the stands while the ESPNU crews shut off extra lights they had set up for the broadcast.

The game resumed about 8:40 p.m. CT.

Stevens finished with four catches for 92 yards and the touchdown to lead Oakland’s offense.

Zarius Gamble also caught a 69-yard pass for the Patriots and was heading toward the end zone but fumbled inside the 5 and it was recovered by Hillsboro.

Oakland led 13-6 at halftime and went on a 28-0 run in the second half to actually start the running clock (TSSAA mercy rule) before Hillsboro punched it in with less than 16 seconds remaining.

“There’s no such thing as an ugly win,” Creasy said. “We did some things that were ugly. I’m disappointed in the turnovers. That’s something we’ll have to correct.”

Oakland QB Brendan Matthews was 6-of-17 for 198 yards and a touchdown while throwing one interception. Lazarius Patterson rushed for 94 yards and a TD on 15 carries for the Patriots.

Oakland (2-0) plays at Siegel next Friday while Hillsboro (0-2) will be at Station Camp.