Highlanders fall to Oak Park



Audrey Wang

The crestfallen Highlanders watches a failed comeback attempt from the sidelines.

Ivan Martinez, Sports Editor

It’s tough to be a Highlanders fan these days.

Just one week after Farmington handed Adams a soul-crushing loss in the last thirty seconds of regulation, Highlander fans were treated to an even more demoralizing defeat. Rather than facing loss in the final seconds, Highlander fans were forced to watch their team squander opportunity after opportunity for a full 48 minutes, resulting in a 20-14 beat-down at the hands of the Oak Park Knights.

The worst part? Adams more than tripled Oak Park’s time of possession. Losing to a team that had the ball for less than one quarter of the game is like as losing a fistfight to a guy with one hand tied behind his back: inexcusable, and utterly humiliating.

Unlike last week’s defeat, however, there was no hidden cause of failure. It’s as simple as it seems: in 37:30 of possession, Adams scored only 14 points despite having six, I repeat, SIX possessions inside the Oak Park 30 yard line. That kind of offensive incompetence is absolutely unacceptable. It also overshadowed what should have been considered a great accomplishment. Holding a team to 10:30 of ball possession is a great feat that, in almost any other circumstance, would have ensured a victory.

Instead Adams faces a 1-3 record and a steep uphill climb to make the playoffs. As Adams prepares for this Friday’s must-win game against  Farmington Harrison High School, they can only look back at the many missed opportunities that could have lifted Adams to a 2-2 record and a more manageable situation.

        Keeping with the status quo, Oak Park began the game by torching the Highlander’s secondary for a 79 yard touchdown pass on the third play of the game. Oak Park quarterback Chauncey Lowman would finish 5/11 for 163 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a ridiculous 14.8 yards per attempt (which happens to be double what Adams quarterback Kyle Wood averaged per completion).

        Following a missed extra point, Oak Park handed the Highlanders their first possession at the Adams 31 yard line. Adams answered Oak Park’s 37 second touchdown strike with a 19 play, 10 minute touchdown drive that gave Adams a 7-6 lead with 1:13 remaining in the first quarter. Kyle Wood ended the long drive by diving across the goal-line from the one yard line. It was a completely momentum-shifting drive that sapped Oak Park of their morale.

        Just 46 seconds later, however, they would find themselves in the end-zone again. This time it took only two plays for Oak Park to span the field, with wide receiver Najee Trinity taking a handoff 44 yards for their second score of the night. One successful two-point conversion later, Oak Park had retaken the lead and momentum. With 0:27 remaining in the first quarter, the Knights led 14-7.

        Adams continued to play ball-control, running the ball on 11 of the first 12 plays of their next drive. However, facing a fourth-and-two from the Oak Park 17 yard line, Adams called an ill-advised pass play that resulted in a 12 yard sack and turnover on downs. The 15 play drive lasted nearly eight and a half minutes, but yielded no points.

        The Adams offense would be given a second chance, however, after linebacker Stephen Roncelli picked off Lowman at the Oak Park 44 on the third play of the drive. Four runs later, Adams was once again inside the Oak Park 25, when a batted pass was intercepted by Oak Park, handing them the ball back and effectively ending the half. Despite having the ball for over five times as long (20:20 to 3:40) and running three times as many plays (39 to 13), Adams went into halftime down 14-7.

        A promising 13 play drive to start the half was halted by two false start penalties inside the Oak Park 30 yard line, resulting in another turnover on downs. The drive did manage to burn 7:03 off the clock, however, as Adams continued to keep the ball away from the Knights offense for as long as possible.

        Limiting Oak Park’s possessions continued to pay off, as the Highlanders forced a three-and-out on the subsequent drive. The offense then delivered yet another long drive, this time managing to finally tie the game up. Kyle Wood capped off the 12 play, 7 minute drive with a 15 yard touchdown pass to Julian Benevides on third and four. The long drive left the game tied at 14 apiece, with only 8:55 remaining in regulation.

        It seemed as if Oak Park would summon another lightning quick touchdown when they returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards, only to be called back due to multiple holding calls. The ball was placed at the OP 13, and the Knights would only muster one first down before sending the ball back to Adams with 5:57 still on the clock.

        With time winding down and a chance to drive for the game-winning score, the Highlanders put forward their shortest possession of the game. Kyle Wood fumbled the exchange on a handoff with the running back, causing a loss of three, followed by back-to-back incompletions. The drive ended in a three-and-out as Adams pinned the Knights inside the OP 20 yard line.Not only had Adams failed to seize control of the game, they had also left a full 5:02 for Oak Park to make a run of their own.

        As they had shown all game long, Oak Park didn’t need long to score. In three plays the Knights traversed the length of the field, with running back Carl Turner breaking off a 32 yard run and wide receiver Darrius Stokes taking a short pass for 56 yards and a touchdown. It was a deflating turn of events to say the least, but Adams wasn’t finished.

Despite missing a chance to take control of the game and allowing the Knights to recapture the lead, there was still hope for the Highlanders. Oak Park’s quick strike had left 3:24 left on the clock, more than enough time for the Highlanders to put together a game-winning drive. And thanks to a terrific block by the special teams, the Knights only led by six, leaving the door open for Adams to win the game in regulation.  

After a slow start, Kyle Wood injected life into the offense by dodging three defenders and scrambling for a gain of 10 on fourth and eight. From there, the offense began to move thanks to a couple of completions to Chase Kareta and Daniel Sanders for a net gain of 20 yards. After a QB sneak that yielded no gain, Adams took their second timeout of the half with 1:24 remaining from the 37 yard line.

On the next play Adams crossed the Oak Park 30 yard line on an eight yard completion to Kareta in which he managed to get out of bounds with 1:18 left on the clock. Unfortunately, like clockwork, Kyle Wood threw the game ending interception on the first play inside the OP 30 yard line. Wood felt the pressure as the defensive line closed in on him and rather than throw the ball away, he chose to throw a dangerous pass that sealed the Highlanders’ fate.

The Showing was tough to watch for a fan base that has witnessed one too many close losses this season. It was especially hard for those who still believe that Adams is a playoff team, as the Highlanders fell to 1-3, making almost every game from now on a must-win game.

As gut-wrenching as the loss was, it’s not too late for Adams to state their case for the playoffs. They may have been horribly outplayed offensively, but the team showed they can keep dangerous offenses of the field, as well as stay toe to toe with tough opponents. As I mentioned last week, Adams possesses great resiliency which may make a difference should they encounter any more tight finishes. However, if Adams can’t find a way to string together a few victories, it won’t do any good how resilient they are when they’re watching the playoffs from the stands.