Much has been made about Oscar Smith’s daunting defense.
And rightly so.
The Tigers gave up only nine points heading into Saturday’s Class 6 state semifinal against Massaponax, of Spotsylvania County.
But when the Panthers scored not once, but twice, against them, one had to wonder if Oscar Smith had met its challenge.
The Tigers held Massaponax scoreless in the second half, including a huge defensive stop in the final minute, to beat the Panthers 21-14 and advance to the Class 6 state title game. The Tigers will face a familiar foe — South County, of Lorton, which beat James Madison 29-22. The Stallions beat Oscar Smith 14-13 in the 2019 Class 6 state championship game.
The win over Massaponax also gives Oscar Smith a home game for next week.
Massaponax struck first. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Oscar Smith 41 — with the Tigers thinking run — Panthers quarterback Luke Morley found a wide-open Nathaniel Quance over the middle for a touchdown, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
It was the first time this season Oscar Smith trailed in a game.
The Tigers (8-0) responded quickly with a seven-play, 75-yard drive completed by Ethan Vasko’s 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
“I’m just proud of the way that they responded to that with their backs against the wall,” said Oscar Smith coach Chris Scott.
Oscar Smith went ahead 14-7 when Sherrod Covil scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Massaponax tied the game on running back Elijah Christopher’s 2-yard touchdown.
But with 48.8 seconds left in the half, Vasko found Amonte Jones for a 59-yard touchdown to help the Tigers take a 21-14 lead into halftime.
“We caught them in some adjustment that they do,” Scott said. “I thought that was really, really big because we knew they got the ball to begin the second half. To be up was huge.”
That would be the final points of the game.
Massaponax, which was trying to reach a state final for the first time since 2003, would get one more opportunity to tie the game with 2:52 left.
Facing fourth-and-15 from the Oscar Smith 23 with just 9.3 seconds remaining, Morley’s errant pass was picked off by Tae’Ron Richardson to seal the game.
“A lot of people wanted to know how they would respond if they had to play a full game,” Scott said. “I’m just so proud to see them respond the way that they did.”
Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, email@example.com