High School Football: Oakwood wins playoff opener

Oakwood's Sam Stack outjumps Batavia's Will Moorehead for an 18-yard touchdown catch from Adam Polacko to give the Lumberjacks a 7-6 lead in the first quarter. Oakwood won 44-28 to advance to the second round of Division IV playoffs. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Butch Snider reminded his Oakwood football team that Saturday night’s Division IV, Region 16 playoff game against Batavia mattered as much as playoff games in a normal season.

“Call it Covid season or whatever, you get an opportunity to play a playoff game and you can advance as long as you can keep winning,” he said. “That’s a great deal for you. Take advantage of that.”

Because every team was invited to the playoffs this year, the Lumberjacks got to make their first appearance since 2008. With a 2-4 record they were not on pace to earn one of the eight spots usually available in each region. But here they were as a 15th seed hosting a playoff game for the first time.

Oakwood’s ever-improving young players – over half of them are freshmen and sophomores – built an 18-point lead in the first half and rolled to a 44-28 victory over 18th-seeded Batavia.

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said junior quarterback Adam Polacko. “Our whole team, they played their hearts out, and we wanted this one for the seniors. We were trying to send them off right, and I think we did just that.”

The challenge at 7 p.m. next Saturday will be a trip to second-seeded Cincinnati Indian Hill (6-0), the fourth-ranked Division IV team in this week’s media poll. The Jacks have won three of their past four games.

“We never gave up,” senior running back and linebacker Mason Talarczyk said. “With no preseason it was tough. We started off slow, but now we’re rolling and ready to keep going.”

Batavia (1-4) showed its unusual approach early. On fourth and goal from the 17, Mick Heckard threw a touchdown pass to Max Applegate. The Bulldogs went for two and didn’t get it. From there, the Bulldogs went for first downs on fourth down all but one time, always went for two, attempted onside kickoffs and threw at least 60 passes.

The Bulldogs also played at a fast pace on offense. Snider saw all of the other things on video, but because of editing out time between plays he didn’t realize how quickly the Bulldogs lined up and ran the next play.

“Super fast,” Talarczyk said. “They make a completion and they’re getting another play off in under 30 seconds – tiring, but it was a lot of fun.”

Batavia split five receivers wide on almost every play. That meant the Oakwood defensive ends had to line up wide and cover receivers. Heckard got the ball out quick against a three-man rush, throwing lots of screen passes and short passes to the sidelines.

Down 6-0, the Jacks didn’t waste time either gaining control of the game. “We don’t give up after one touchdown,” Polacko said. “We’ve learned that one touchdown means nothing.”

Oakwood’s first touchdown, however, was a big play that sparked them to a 24-6 halftime lead. Polacko lofted a pass to the end zone to 6-foot-5 receiver Sam Stack who outleaped a defender for an 18-yard touchdown.

“It’s designed for him,” Polacko said. “I rolled right, I saw him, I knew he was one-on-one. I knew he could make a play. I just threw it up there for him, and he made a great play.”

Talarczyk scored on a 6-yard run, Polacko scored on a 17-yard run and Billy Boucuvalas kicked a 30-yard field goal to close the half. Batavia’s offense didn’t let up in the second half, but another Talarczyk touchdown run and scoring runs by Jack Epley and Max Parker kept the Jacks in control.

“We felt like we could control the line of scrimmage,” Snider said, “And our guys did that.”

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