By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
MAYS LANDING — Oakcrest High School played inspired football on Friday night.
The Falcons, as a team, were motivated by a perceived slight in the local media, and also the opportunity to give their coach the first win of his career. Sophomore wide receiver Yahsyn McKee wanted to play well for his aunt, who passed away earlier in the summer.
It all culminated in a 35-0 season-opening rout over Ocean City. The Falcons never stopped playing hard, from their 85-yard opening scoring drive to a goal-line stand to end the game.
It was the type of performance that would make any coach happy. It meant even more to Eric Anderson, a long-time assistant at Oakcrest, who registered his first win as head coach. Anderson took over when former coach Chuck Smith took the head coaching job at Mainland after longtime coach Bob Coffey retired following the 2015 season.
“I’m proud of him and the team,” said Oakcrest quarterback Kendall Elliott, who threw two touchdowns and added one on the ground before leaving the game with muscle cramps. “We wanted to win this for him.”
“It’s exciting. I’m at a loss for words,” said Anderson. “I’m happy for the kids. I’m happy for our assistant coaches; we spend a lot of time away from our families.”
The Falcons opened the scoring with a 13-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Elliott to McKee with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
McKee, who finished with 61 receiving yards on four catches, scored again on a 21-yard catch on fourth down to give Oakcrest 14-0 lead. McKee also added a 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“I lost my aunt (Shavonne McKee) a few weeks ago and this game was dedicated to her,” McKee said. “We were strong and we executed. I saw a weakness in their defense, and I just executed my plays.”
He added: “(The paper) said we are rebuilding. We aren’t rebuilding. We are coming out and trying to win it all.”
Elliott, who was 10-for-14 for 166 yards in less than three quarters of work, also scored on the ground, as he plunged in from 1-yard out.
Jailen Heard, a small but shifty and speedy player, added 74 yards on the ground, including a 5-yard touchdown run. Yaier Hinton led the Falcons on the ground with 83 yards.
“Our offensive line was fantastic tonight,” Anderson said. “I can’t say enough about them. They deserve credit. Hats off to them.”
The Falcons’ defense also came up big with interceptions by Justin Figueroa and Jalen Turney, and a fumble recovery by Alec Rodriguez. Ocean City’s best chance to score came at the end of the game, but the Falcons’ reserves kept the Red Raiders out of the end zone from the 1-yard line on three straight plays.
It summed up the night for Ocean City, which couldn’t put it together on either side of the ball for long stretches.
Quarterback Andrew Donoghue had 124 yards passing and found seven different receivers. However, the rushing attack was held to 61 total yards.
“I wasn’t disappointed in the first half,” Ocean City coach Kevin Smith said. “Our halftime speech was positive. I was disappointed with the way we responded in the second half. We didn’t represent ourselves well with our effort.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By GIUSEPPE UNGARO