OSCODA – Some teams in the area might have been intimidated by the size; both in numbers and physical stature of the Gladstone Friday night. Oscoda of course isn’t like most teams however as the Owls met the challenge head-on and took down the visiting Braves, 40-0 in their regular season finale.
“They dropped off 36 kids from the bus and they look big and physical on film but our kids just played better,” head coach Mark Whitley said. “We were faster and we were more physical than them and when you put those two together, we he had a really nice win.”
The shutout win was the fourth such victory for the Owls this year, which also allowed them to set a program record for fewest points allowed in the regular season.
“I was really proud of our guys for that,” Whitley said. “That’s a big deal. We pride ourselves in defense and just playing good football. We like to stop teams and we like to score and when you have a combination of those things working, things are good.”
Gladstone appeared to be ready to give Oscoda a battle early on. The Owls were forced to punt on their first two possessions, and it looked as if the Braves were going to score the game’s first points.
Late in the first quarter, Gladstone ran an option play to convert a short fourth down attempt, setting up a first-and-goal at the four.
The Owl defense stood tall however, stuffing the Braves on three straight run plays up the middle as time ran out on the first.
The first play of the second quarter was a fourth-and-goal attempt from the three-yard line. Gladstone tried to run its quarterback out of the backfield to convert, however he was swarmed by a host of Owls, leading to a four-yard loss.
Oscoda responded with its longest drive of the night, going 93-yards in 12 plays and ran nearly seven minutes off the clock in the process. The drive was capped off on a second-and-goal attempt from the seven-yard line that saw Robert Host take a jet to the left side of the field and into the endzone. Brayden Mallak found Zach Ouillette in the endzone on the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
Gladstone’s next drive only lasted two plays as it fumbled the ball away, allowing Adam Hein to jump on the ball near the sideline, on Gladstone’s 31-yard line.
Oscoda cashed in on the turnover, as on the ensuing play Mallak fired a well-placed pass to Host, who found plenty of space to run on a wheel route. Host hauled in the pass near the 20-yard line and out-sprinted the defense for his second score of the night. Mallak ran in the two-pointer to make it 16-0 with 4:32 to play before the half.
After each team traded short possessions, Gladstone looked to get its first points of the night before the half ended. Host would have none of that however, as he snagged a pass out of the air at the line of scrimmage and returned it the other way for a score, which turned into 24-0 after Owen Franklin ran in the two-pointer.
“Host touched the ball seven times and scored four touchdowns and scored three different ways, so that was impressive,” Whitley said. “When we went into the locker room at halftime our kids could taste blood in the water and when that happens we really play well.”
The Owls finished out the scoring with a pair of third quarter touchdowns, getting Andy Dault to score from five yards out and Host scored his fourth touchdown on a 19-yard scamper. Mallak passed to Dault after Dault’s touchdown run and Franklin followed with a two-point conversion after Host’s score.
“We went in at halftime and we knew we were doing something pretty special and they continued to play well the rest of the night,” Whitley said. “This win is big, heading into the playoffs. We want tough games which is why we brought in Breckenridge and Gladstone. You want to see where you stand heading into the playoffs. Now we’re ready.”
Mallak finished 10-of-18 passing for 137 yards and one touchdown. Dault led the ground game with 85 yards and one score on 10 attempts and Host ran four times for 48 yards and two scores. Franklin hauled in four receptions for 54 yards, host had two grabs for 40 yards and one score, Dault had two receptions for 26 yards and Anthony Ward had two grabs for 17 yards.
The defense had Host get five tackles and an interception, Ouillette had 4.5 tackles, with Ward, Dault and Gavin Lueck getting four tackles apiece.
“They had 36 players get off the bus but I think our team and our 16 players really showed up and showed off our ability to play as one unit both offensively and defensively,” Whitley said.
Oscoda finishes the regular season 8-1 overall and opens the division seven playoffs at home on Friday against McBain (5-4). The Ramblers are coming off a 32-28 loss to a strong Clare team last week.