Oakland Mills confronts tough playoff assignment

November 18, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

One word about Oakland Mills' state quarterfinal football game against Fort Hill tonight -- speed.

That's what the Scorpions hope will trigger an upset of the Cumberland powerhouse.

No. 14 Oakland Mills (8-2) has speed to burn and nothing to lose, because few outside of the Oakland Mills community think it can win.

A look at some past performances will chill even the most ardent Scorpions fan.

Oakland Mills lost to Thomas Johnson, 20-6. Allegany defeated Thomas Johnson, 41-6. And Fort Hill (10-0) defeated Allegany, 28-21. Allegany at the time was ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press.

The great thing about high school football is that the players believe they are invincible.

So the Scorpions don't care about past performances. They believe they can win.

"This will be our biggest challenge, but we have more speed than they do," Oakland Mills coach Ken Hovet said.

"They have one quick running back and are more disciplined than us. They run a wing-T like us and execute it flawlessly. They are a finesse team that doesn't throw much."

Because Fort Hill plays in a conference that stresses the run, Hovet hopes his team's passing attack can produce points. Fort Hill lacks speed in its defensive backfield.

"Victor Cullen Academy scored on three long passes against them, and on a kick return, and had them tied 28-all at halftime," Hovet said. Fort Hill won that game, 53-28.

But Victor Cullen is no powerhouse. It defeated Mount Hebron (0-10) by only 27-14. And the Vikings scored just 22 points all season.

Oakland Mills has a quick-strike passing combination with quarterback Irving Conwell (57-for-100, 1,023 yards) and speedster Fardan Carter.

"Carter is the fastest football player in the state," Hovet said.

It was Carter who caught the winning touchdown pass against Howard and who caught a 46-yarder against Centennial last week.

Weather may be a factor.

If it rains hard, Oakland Mills' speed advantage will whither and it will rely more on the running of Jake Daft (1,379 yards, 171 carries).

But hard rain also will hamper Oakland Mills' blocking. The Scorpions are a good trap blocking team, but not a good power blocking team. In heavy rain, trap blockers tend to lose their footing. Oakland Mills lost to Thomas Johnson in a heavy rain.

If the field is just a little slick, its speed advantage will blossom, Hovet thinks.

But Oakland Mills has had a tremendous season no matter what happens against Fort Hill.

The Scorpions won their first county championship since 1987. They defeated defending county champ Howard, 19-18, in one of the best games in county history.

They have outscored opponents, 288-86, with three shutouts.

The defense is highly physical with bruisers like Tajuan Hall, Daft, Conwell, Casey Moffett, Lang Wethington and Brian Howard -- all of whom delight in delivering punishing blows.

The offense averages 28 points and has a plethora of weapons.

Wethington and Howard are bruising fullbacks. Carter and Paul Brown are dangerous wing backs. Conwell is an accurate passer, especially when throwing deep.

The leading receiver is Sam Smith with 20 catches for 308 yards and six touchdowns.

Daft has scored 116 points, including 17 touchdowns and seven two-point conversions.

Daft, who had not played on a winning football team in six previous seasons of organized ball, is pleased with the way the season has gone.

"Everything has gone as well as I'd hoped at the beginning of the season," he said.

He and his teammates are delighted -- win or lose -- to get the chance to travel to Cumberland and play before as many as 8,000 fans.

But Daft is hoping that speed, a physical defense and a little luck will add up to a win.

Oakland Mills never has won a state title. In its best effort it lost in the state finals in 1982 to James M. Bennett. In its most recent playoff appearance in 1991, it lost to Allegany, 20-7.

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