Raiders look to playoffs after senior night win

DTL Editor

The Oak Hill Academy Raiders (5-5) made the most of senior night on Friday with a 24-18 win over the Marshall Academy Patriots (3-7). 

The victory over the Patriots represented the first district win for coach Chris Craven’s Raiders during the 2018 regular season and could mean momentum for Oak Hill heading into the first round of the MAIS AA playoffs next week.  

“It was a big win for us, Marshall is a conference team and they were the only conference game we won this year, but at the same time we played them for the district championship last year,” Craven said. “We came out and played hard. They played their hearts out.”

The Raiders were led on offense in part by senior quarterback Ash Cullum who connected on two scores through the air with junior receiver Collin Coggins and ran another in on a quarterback sneak. 

But it was the Raider kicker Grayson Easterling who again proved to be a difference maker. 

Apart from his five touchbacks on the night, Easterling finished 3-for-3 on extra point attempts and notched a career-best 50-yard field goal. 

Craven praised the senior kicker, saying the talent developed through Easterling’s hard work has provided an “unbelievable advantage” for the Raiders. 

He then stressed how rare of a commodity it is to have a talented kicker at the high school level. For instance, during warmups, Easterling hit a field goal from 55 yards out. 

“God blessed him with an ability to do that and we try to take advantage of it,” Craven said. “He has always worked on it and worked on his craft with that goal of being a kicker in college. I’m pretty sure he is going to achieve that goal. You take into account wind and rain, but when you get 50 yards out, you have a shot.” 

While the Raider offense provided plenty of excitement, Craven pointed to difference-makers on defense that shut down the Patriots offensive attack. 

“Jonah Caskey had an interception and Jake Makamson, he is really our defensive leader,” Craven said. “I know last night put him over 100 tackles for the season.”

Coggins also reeled in an interception, and was joined in the defensive effort by Dylan Bryan and Jaden Craven who had fumble recoveries. 

Bryan and fellow defensive lineman Joseph Golson also had one quarterback sack each. 

Looking ahead to next week, the Raiders will travel to Flora to take on the Tri-County Academy Rebels (7-3) in the first round of the MAIS AA playoffs. 

When the two teams met in the 2017 playoffs, the Rebels came away with a 33-13 victory at home. 

That team would go on to play St. Joseph in the state championship game and lost 44-14. 

Craven said his squad will head into the first round as the underdogs, with Tri-County as the No. 6 seed and Oak Hill as the No. 11 seed. 

“We will have that underdog mentality, we will have to fight for everything we get,” Craven said. “We faced them in the playoffs and have been beaten by them in the past, so we want to step up to the challenge.” 

He then said the Rebels are a well-coached team that will put talented players on the field, but he is optimistic that the Raiders will be up to the task.  

“The great thing about the playoffs is everyone is 0-and-0 again,” Craven said.