For the Stoughton High football team, Friday night's game against Oliver Ames was all about getting back to the basics.
It was also about getting back to winning. A simplified game plan with just four offensive plays was all it took for the Black Knights to dominate the Tigers, 44-21, and come away with a crucial Davenport Division victory.
"That’s all we did," Stoughton head coach Greg Burke said. "Four plays – we ran them about 100 times each and that’s all we did all week. That’s all we did. We executed. You can run a billion plays but if you can’t execute them right, they’re no good. We got back to what we’re trying to do and we’re not changing for the rest of the year."
With the win, Stoughton improved to 7-1 (2-1 in the Davenport Division). The Tigers dropped to 5-3 (0-2 in the Davenport).
A power run game with a mix of a play-action air game was too much for the Tigers from the beginning. Oliver Ames fell behind when Stoughton quarterback Dan Eckler hit wideout Marcus Middleton for a 41 yard bomb during the Black Knights' first offensive series of the game. After forcing a turnover on downs, Stoughton took the ball down the field again and runningback Malachi Baugh walked into the endzone from the 1 yd line with 9:07 left in the 2nd quarter.
While the Tigers faced a 14-0 deficit early, things looked promising when runningback Matt Berksza scored from 3 yds out to put the Tigers within a score.
The Black Knights didn't stay within reach for long, though. On the first offensive Stoughton play after OA's touchdown, Eckler threw a 62 yd touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Kelly. A 2-pt conversion pass from Eckler to Lennox Green made the score 22-7.
After an OA three-and-out, Middleton capped the ensuing Stoughton drive with a 2 yd TD run. A 2 point conversion in the form of Malachi Baugh made the score 30-7 at the half, and capped an impressive performance from the Stoughton offense that found the endzone on it's first four possessions.
"I thought we did a couple of nice things and I thought we were there but we could just never catch our breath," OA coach Jim Artz said. "We get the game back to a one score game and then the very next play we have a mental mistake that gives up the 60 yard touchdown that puts them right back up. We were just never able to catch our breath."
Oliver Ames was dominated by a stacked rushing attack from the Black Knights. Stoughton had four runningbacks with over 50 yds rushing. Malachi Baugh had 146 yds rushing and 1 TD. Aaron Mack had 95 yds rushing with a TD. Frankie Morris finished with 89 yds on the ground and Marcus Middleton had 52 yds rushing, 50 yds receiving and 2 TD's.
Eckler finished 4/9 passing for 132 yds, 2 TDs, 14 yds rushing and 1 rushing TD.
"That’s just old school smash mouth football and it’s not like they surprised us with anything," Artz said. "They were bigger, stronger, tougher and they wanted it more than we did."
The Black Knights put an exclamation point on their night with an Eckler TD run in the 3rd quarter and a Mack 41 yd touchdown run in the 4th quarter.
Oliver Ames scored twice in the 4th quarter on a Nick Cidado 4 yd touchdown run and a Berksza 5 yd run.
Cidado finished the game 13/31 passing for 115 yds, an interception, 72 yds rushing, and 1 rushing TD. St. Clair Ryan led the Tigers on the ground with 72 yds rushing and Greg Cummings finished with 63 yards receiving.
With no wins in the Davenport and two division games remaining against Canton and Sharon, the Tigers now have their backs against a wall.
"Somewhere along the way we’ve lost a lot of what we’ve become," Artz said. "We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better. This isn’t what I feel is indicative of our team. We didn’t play very well."
The Black Knights will stay focused on securing a division title. After games against Attleboro and Bridgewater Raynham, they will square off against rival Canton on Thanksgiving.
"We’ve still got an uphill battle," Burke said. "But, [OA has] beaten us two years in a row and we had a great week of practice – focused. It was nice to play on a Friday night and I’m just happy for our seniors. We’ve got one left we’ve got to win in our division and we’ve got two other games, too."
Josh Brown contributed to the reporting in this article.