Patriots' defense steps to forefront

Patriots' defense steps to forefront

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Patriots' defense steps to forefront

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MURFREESBORO

Oakland’s defense stood tall when it needed a stop.

The Patriots stopped Blackman twice from the 2-yard line to preserve a 23-17 win Thursday night at Patriot Field.

“We executed on defense well and didn’t make many mistakes,” Oakland linebacker Cliff Thompson said. “We came up big in the clutch.”

Yes, the Patriots did.

Blackman quarterback Chase Smotherman lofted a 41-yard pass on fourth-and-26 down the Blackman sidelines that Quindell Cousin wrestled away at the Oakland 2 to give the Blaze a chance to win the game in the final 20 seconds.

Fullback Antonio Allen tried to score on a handoff up the middle, but was stuffed for a 1-yard gain. With the final seconds clicking off, Smotherman attempted to run the same run play again. Allen got the ball and took a 3-yard loss to end the game.

“This was a big win,” Oakland quarterback Emmanuel Smith said. “We needed that to keep our confidence up.”

Blackman coach Philip Shadowens said the game plan at the end was to run the same run play twice. However, there was some confusion on the field and neither team had a time out.

“We wanted to run it twice with our heavy package,” Shadowens said. “We were running behind our best lineman (Austin Singleton) and just didn’t get the score.”

Oakland (3-2 overall, 1-1 in 7-AAA) picked up its second straight win. Blackman (3-2, 0-2) remained winless in 7-AAA play.

Oakland’s Hayes Foster booted a 33-yard field goal to give Oakland a 23-17 with 8:49 remaining to give the Patriots a little cushion.

Foster’s field goal answered Cousin’s 54-yard TD catch and run that had cut the deficit to 4:15 in the third quarter.

Cousin finished with eight catches for 154 yards. Smotherman was 12-of-20 passing for 188 yards.

Smith led Oakland with 117 yards rushing on 14 carries. His 65-yard TD run down the Blaze sidelines gave Oakland a 14-10 second-quarter lead. Oakland’s Eric Abernathy scored on a 2-yard run as time expired to end the first half to give the Patriots a 20-10 halftime lead.

Abernathy’s TD was set up by Smith’s 28-yard catch from backup quarterback Rhett Stacey, who downed the ball with .2 seconds remaining to allow the score.

Oakland’s Tyler Black returned a punt 48 yards to grab an early 7-0 lead on the Blaze with 10:18 left in the first quarter.

But the Blaze answered. Blackman recorded a safety to cut the deficit to 7-2 after an Oakland holding call in the Patriot end zone. The Blaze got the ball back at their own 29 and quickly drove downfield. Dee Mathers capped a six-play, 71-yard drive with a 16-yard TD run. Mathers added the 2-point conversion to give the Blaze a 10-7 lead.

“Our kids fought hard and that’s all we can ask them to do,” Shadowens said. “They played with great character.”

Darryle Hood finished with 51 yards on 12 carries for Oakland. Allen had 44 yards on eight carries for the Blaze. Teammate Cole Notgrass also had 44 yards on the ground.

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