BY AARON PATTERSON firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — FITHIAN — Looking back on his high school career, Oakwood senior Andrew Curley will likely always remember what happened on Sept. 20, 2013.
His Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac Comets were winless entering the evening’s Vermilion Valley Conference game against Hoopeston Area, and it was time to make his mark on the OAP football program.
A little over three minutes into the game, Curley caught a pass for 38 yards to give the Comets a 6-0 lead.
It was his first-ever touchdown at the varsity level, and stepping into the end zone felt so good he decided to do it again.
On Hoopeston Area’s next possession, Curley was on defense and picked off a pass that he returned 26 yards for another touchdown. And with two minutes to go in the first quarter, he ran 21 yards for his third touchdown of the game.
But perhaps most importantly, it was OAP’s first win of the season, and they defeated the very young and overmatched Cornjerkers 75-0.
“It feels great,” Curley said. “After going 0-3 in the first three games, it’s awesome. We got that first win off of our shoulders. It will change us for the rest of the season. We started out conference play with a win. The rest of our conference is up to us.”
Curley finished the game with three touchdowns, 21 yards rushing, and 38 receiving yards. He wasn’t the only Comet to get in the mix, though.
Senior Alex Anderson, who ran for 46 yards on two carries, also scored three touchdowns, including one interception that he returned 46 yards.
Zach Horatschki scored two touchdowns and ran for 70 yards on four carries, and back-ups Blake Vinson, Hunter Phelps, and Sam Denhart each found the end zone.
The Comets led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter, and by halftime had built a 62-0 lead.
The win offered reassurance to an OAP team that came so close to picking up a win in last week’s game against Arcola.
“The kids played really well tonight,” OAP coach Jeremy Dirksmeyer said. “We played well last week, we just did not finish. We had some key penalties inside the red zone. I felt we were a better team last week, but we didn’t come out on the winning end of that. It was definitely nice to see the kids put it together. They were focused this week. Regardless of who we were playing, they were focused and came out and prepared to take care of business.”
The Comets held the Cornjerkers to 8 yards of total offense, had two interceptions, and forced five fumbles, two recovered by OAP.
Not only was it the first win of the season for the Comets, it was their first win since knocking off Decatur Lutheran on Sept. 14 last season.
After snapping the eight-game losing streak, the Comets will now enter the same stretch of games that gave them trouble last season when they finished the year on a five-game losing streak.
“It was really important,” Curley said of picking up the win before the crucial stretch. “It gives us confidence going into the next games. It showed us what we can do as a team when we put it all together. If we play like we did today, it will be a good fight.”
Hoopeston Area, which has 16 of its 24 players playing their first-ever football games, got credit for a forfeit win against East Central, and has also been told it will receive a forfeit win next week for a game that was originally scheduled to be played against Schlarman Academy. Then, it will be back to the field for Week 6 to take on the Salt Fork Storm.
“Our young kids just play hard,” Hoopeston Area coach Michl Kearney said. “They are overmatched right now.
“They’re young. We are playing a lot of freshmen and first-year players. The young kids are really playing hard.”
The Comets will be back in action next week against Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman which will be coming off its first loss of the season against Cerro Gordo. As they prepare for their next battle, the Comets will try to use their first win as a building block.
“We told the kids that we’ve got to put the non-conference games behind us,” Dirksmeyer said.
“Our season with the conference started tonight. Regardless of who we play, we focus like that, and we preach to the kids you don’t look ahead. You focus on the week right now that we are in. Regardless of who we play next week, this was a must-win, and we needed that as a program.”