OSCODA – A late surge before the half led to some second half dominance. Host Oscoda all-but blew out rival Tawas Area in the two’s annual meeting for Iosco County bragging rights Friday night, putting up 50-straight points to claim a 50-15 victory.
“It was a great night for Oscoda, a great night for the kids,” Oscoda head coach Mark Whitley said. “We played well and the kids are really excited.”
This is the first time that Oscoda has won back-to-back meetings against Tawas since the 2004 and 2005 seasons and it also gives the Owls a 32-to-30 all time edge in the heated rivalry.
“The crowd for both teams, I thought it was awesome,” Whitley said. “I’ve been up here five years now and every Tawas-Oscoda game is an awesome game in the sense that both towns come out to watch, it is really fun for the kids to play in front of a big crowd.”
The Braves found early success on offense, when quarterback fired a perfect deep ball to speedy wide-out Camden Groff. Groff hauled in the pass near mid-field and out-ran the Oscoda defense for the first score of the night. Raphael Arantes booted in the extra point for a 7-0 Tawas lead with 4:36 to play in the opening quarter.
“We need to do it more, we have to find ways to get Groff more involved, that’s for sure,” Tawas head coach Tim Webb said. “It was tough to get into a rhythm calling plays though, because their defense is good and we made too many penalties. When we get him the ball, good tend to happen though.”
This, along with stops by the Tawas defense on Oscoda’s first two possessions gave the Braves plenty of hope early on. A new-look defensive scheme, dubbed the radar defense, where all 11 defenders were in a two-point stance gave the Owls fits early on.
“No one really matches up with their size and we felt if we were to line up it would have been easy for them,” Tawas head coach Tim Webb said. “Assistant coach Eric Haglund had mentioned that we try it and defensive coordinator Mark Cliff put it into motion and developed a game plan. It causes confusion for the offense and I thought it really gave us a chance. The kids enjoyed it too and it gave us a couple early stops, which is what we needed.”
Oscoda punted the ball deep into Tawas territory after its second possession, setting up the Braves’ possession on their own 25-yard line.
On their second play of the series, the Braves fired a pass in the flat that Oscoda defensive back Owen Franklin read perfectly. Franklin stepped in front of the attempt, hauled it in and went into the endzone untouched for the Owls’ first points of the night. Quarterback Braydan Mallak ran a keeper to the right side of the field on the two-point conversion, giving Oscoda an 8-7 lead it would never relinquish.
“The kids work hard in the film room, trying to get better and learn what their opponents are doing,” Whitley said. “He had seen that on film and stepped into the passing lane there. I know it was early, but it seemed like the momentum switched in our favor after that play.”
Oscoda scored on two of its next three possessions, getting a seven yard touchdown run by Robert Host midway through the second and a Mallak-to-Franklin touchdown pass from 24-yards out with just 15 seconds left to play before the half, giving Oscoda a 22-7 lead at the break.
“The first part of the game, it took us awhile to get going,” Whitley said. “Webb is a good coach, he tried to throw a wrinkle in at us, having guys stand up on the defensive front. Once we settled in we ran it pretty well and threw it well too. They had a good defensive scheme to start, but we made some adjustments and our offense kind of took over. Owen had a big night and that was big to go up two scores at the half.”
Andrew Dault romped in from four yards out to score on Oscoda’s first drive of the second half and Mallak tossed a perfect ball to Devin Thomas for a 21-yard score to make it 36-7 entering the fourth.
Mallak tacked on a one-yard sneak in the fourth quarter and Franklin added his third touchdown of the night with six minutes left to play, when he returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown. This gave him a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams.
Tawas closed out the score with a three yard touchdown run by Kyle Evans, with Evans also running in the two-pointer to make it the final.
This was the biggest margin of victory for Oscoda in the rivalry since 1996.
“It was a rivalry game so both sides were amped,” Whitley said. “We started off a little sluggish but once we got the interception by Franklin we could feel the momentum had switched. When our defense plays like that we can shut down teams and it just sparks our offense. The kids did a great job of shutting down their running game and their passing game as well. When we got down 7-0 we told the kids that it wasn’t going to be a 7-0 game and we were OK and had to just settle in.”
For the Braves, it was a bit of a frustrating end to the night after it had started out with some promise.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Webb said. “We thought that Oscoda was very talented and they were. Our defense gave us a couple stops at the beginning and gave us a chance but we made too many mistakes. That is part of playing a good team though. The interception for a touchdown happened because they made the play. We were called for holding because they were tough to block. We knew we had to play well but we just made too many mistakes at crucial times.”
Oscoda was led by Mallak who was five-of-10 passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns and he also ran for 37 yards and a score. Dault ran nine times for 112 yards and a score and Host touched it nine times for 86 yards and a score. Devin Thomas had two receptions for 81 yards and a score and Franklin hauled in two for 67 yards and a score. On defense, Schallnau Nimai had six tackles, Christian Ward had five and David Gream had four. Ward and Nimai had one sack each.
Tawas was led by Logan Fiske with 44 yards on seven rushes and Mochty was four-of-nine passing for 119 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Groff had the 88-yard touchdown reception and Noah Davis had two catches for 33 yards.
On defense, Tawas had Kayden Spencer get 10 tackles and Braeden Barnes had eight tackles.
“I thought it was a good measuring stick to see where we are at,” Webb said. “We know that Oscoda is pretty good and at times we did some good things. It was really nice to execute some plays against a good team. We know what areas we need to shore up. We need to limit our mistakes and we just have to move on from it. This week is huge with Ogemaw Heights coming in.”
Oscoda (5-1 overall, 3-0 NSL) hosts Whittemore-Prescott (2-3, 2-1) on Friday with a chance to win the league title outright. Tawas (3-2) hosts Ogemaw Heights (1-5).