O-A stuns Pembroke in final seconds
When Tim Smith and Brad Riner embraced just moments after the Oakfield-Alabama football team had shocked visiting Pembroke in the final seconds to wrap up the Genesee Region League title, saying it was an emotional moment would be an understatement.
The two tearful O-A stars literally left it all on the field and scored the final points in an amazing 25-24 victory in front of an estimated 2,500 fans.
Smith's story is well known.
He literally walked off the field in the middle of a game last season and quit on his team. But his teammates welcomed him back - and it was Smith that plunged into the end zone with 29 seconds left on the clock to put the Hornets down by one point.
The coaching staff initially wanted to kick the extra point and go into overtime, especially with Smith getting banged up on the touchdown run. But the O-A players made the call to go for two, and coach John Dowd let his players decide if they were going to win the Genesee Region League championship outright on a two-point conversion.
After burning a timeout because of some confusion, the Hornets lined up and gave the ball to Riner, who took a sweep to the left side of the line and dove into the end zone to give O-A the lead.
Riner wrapped up the league title (it is the first time the Hornets have won the title outright since Dowd has been coach) with an interception two plays later.
This was a typical Oakfield-Alabama/Pembroke game, a classic battle between the top two programs in the GR.
There was no smack talk on the field, no cheap shots ... nothing but a hard fought battle between two great teams.
Pembroke looked as if it was going to dominate early on as David Kleckler returned the opening kickoff 70 yards to set up an Andrew Wright 1-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the contest.
Neither team moved the ball after that in the first quarter and it was 7-0 after 12 minutes.
Wright put an end to the battle of the punters with a 41-yard run midway through the second quarter. Matthew Phelps nailed an impressive 39-yard field goal to put the Dragons up 10-0.
O-A started near midfield and quarterback A.J. Kehlenbeck rumbled for 17 yards to set up a Riner 6-yard TD run with about a minute left in the half, making the score 10-7 at the break.
After the second half started with defensive stops, Riner broke off a 16-yarder and Smith eventually scored from 3-yards out to give the Hornets a 14-10 advantage.
The Dragons seemed to have lost it at this point.
Three consecutive conservative rushing calls set up a fourth-and-8 at the Pembroke 30-yard line.
But Kleckler scrambled around for a little bit and launched a pass into the end zone, which was hauled in by Jacob Reeves. It is just the second reception he's had all season long.
Pembroke carried the 17-14 lead into the fourth.
Oakfield-Alabama's power rushing attack led to a 7-plus minute drive that allowed the score to be tied up when Jon Fisher kicked a 24-yard field goal.
On the ensuing drive, Kleckler scrambled for 32 yards and Mike Dibble rumbled for 14 yards, but two penalties in three plays put Pembroke in a tough situation.
The Dragons had a third-and-17 at the Oakfield 23-yard line.
Kleckler dropped back to pass and felt the pressure from O-A's defensive lineman, but he scrambled around for a couple of seconds and found tight end Ken Babcock at about the 5-yard line. Babcock took a few steps into the end zone and the Dragons led 24-17 with 2:42 left in the game.
Smith had a long kick return to midfield and O-A's longest run on the final drive was a 12-yard scamper by Riner.
The win means Oakfield-Alabama is now 6-0 and is league champions. Pembroke falls to 5-1.
With Le Roy's victory over Caledonia-Mumford tonight, O-A is still the No. 2 seed in Class C and Pembroke is at No. 3.
The Dragons play Attica next week.