The first matchup was a defensive struggle, with two physical teams fighting for a District 7-AAA regular-season title as well as a top seed in the playoffs.
But tonight’s rematch is even more important.
A semifinal appearance is awarded to the winner. The loser’s season is over.
Second-ranked Oakland (12-0) hosts fifth-ranked Blackman (10-2) at 7 p.m. today at Ray Hughes Stadium. It’s a rematch of the Patriots’ 9-3 win in Week 9 held Oct. 24 at Oakland.
Both coaches learned a lot from the rematch. The two teams have essentially played each other in six quarters this season. They played a scoreless half in the Rutherford County Jamboree in August.
Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel said his offense must come out with more intensity to beat the Blaze a second time. Oakland managed just 228 total yards. But the Patriots’ defense held Blackman to just 154 total yards.
“We better come out with a different level of intensity on the offensive front, if we are going to move the football,” McDaniel said. “For us, (the first meeting) was about finishing drives. We moved the chains effectively in some drives, but we didn’t finish.
“We also have to keep them honest (on defense). It becomes redundant, but we have to make sure we mix in the passing game.”
Oakland running back Fred Wade surpassed the 1,400-yard mark in last week’s 35-0 win over Siegel. The Blaze defense will likely need to key on him.
Both defenses have stood out in the playoffs. Oakland hasn’t allowed a point in two postseason games and given up an average of 86 yards a game. Blackman has yielded 14 points in the postseason, albeit all 14 came against the Blaze’s backups in a 47-14 win over Ravenwood.
The Blaze defense has given up an average of 171 yards a game in the playoffs.
Blackman’s surge in the postseason came after back-to-back losses to enter the playoffs.
“The loss to Bowling Green actually united our football team,” Blackman coach Philip Shadowens said. “We were already close as a football team and close as a staff. The way we lost that game, having to overcome all of that adversity, I think our kids realized we’re going to stand up for one another and not back down from anything.”
Blackman’s strength has been on the ground. The Blaze have run for more than 3,000 yards with running backs Cole Notgrass (78.2 rushing ypg) and Charlie Davidson (65.5 rushing ypg) and quarterback Jauan Jennings (55.9 rushing ypg) leading the way.Oakland has also flourished on the ground. Like Blackman, the Patriots have rushed for more than 3,000 yards. Wade, D.J. Hood Jr. (72.6 rushing ypg) and Josh Cunningham (25.2 rushing ypg) lead the Patriots’ ground attack.