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Oak Hill Academy will go on road to try to win district title


Adam Minichino



WEST POINT -- Chris Craven is old school.  


If football coaches still watched game film or used videotapes to watch highlights of games, Craven likely would wear out the rewind switch on the projector or the back button on his remote. These days, Craven usually spends his spare time parked in front of a computer with his fingers peppering the back space button and the mouse to review games that have been posted to Hudl, a program that allows coaches to review and analyze games. 


Craven admits he will "loop" a play so he can watch it at least 11 times so he can see what each player to identify any areas of concern. Craven likely will watch each play a few more times, too, to see the final result and to highlight the top performers. 


Craven had plenty of footage from Oak Hill Academy 14-13 victory against West Memphis Christian last week to keep him busy over the weekend. Thanks to a well-placed camera stand for filming in the far end zone, Craven had a bird's-eye view of Oak Hill Academy's defensive stand on a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter that helped preserve the victory. 


"That is great team effort," Craven said. "The middle gaps were stuffed. The linebacker executed his call and took his gap. The other linemen had their gap control. The other defensive end who was going to be the contain guy in that situation squeezed down and came up for contain for a cutback. As I watched it on film in slow motion, I was really proud of the technique. You don't see that all of the time. It is hard to get kids to play like that, and they don't play like that all of the time." 


Craven hopes Oak Hill Academy will be able to deliver similar efforts at 7 tonight when it goes on the road to play Marshall Academy in a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AA, District 1 game. A victory by the Raiders (6-2, 2-1 district) would give it the tiebreaker against the Patriots (7-2, 3-0) and earn it the district's automatic spot in the playoffs. A loss would leave Oak Hill Academy waiting to learn its seed in the 16-team postseason. 


Craven praised defensive coordinator Carl Middleton and assistant coach Cody Allen for devising a game plan to combat West Memphis Christian's triple-option, misdirection, double-wing attack. He said the Raiders did a great job laying "assignment football" and executing. Nowhere was that play more evident in the two-point conversion attempt that Craven said he would have attempted if he was a coach forced to make the same call, especially if he had a chance to recover an onside kick. Craven said he saw all 11 players on their assignments. He said defensive tackle Ryan Simmons took on a double team and refuse to get moved. Craven said linebacker Jonah Caskey took on the fullback, who was the lead blocker for the quarterback. He said defensive end Daniel Harrington followed his defensive call and tried to fight down inside. Those moves enabled John Carver Middleton to get there from his strong safety position and laid a big hit on the quarterback. Craven said weakside linebacker Jake Makamson moved to the other side of the field to make a play that left West Memphis Christian 1 yard short. 


"I saw everybody digging down deep in the last minute of the game," Craven said. "You have to have focus, guts, and heart to do something that technical. I was really amazed by that when I watched it in slow motion and went frame by frame by frame. Hats off to the defense. The defense won the game." 


Jaden Craven had 17 tackles (13 solo, four assists) to lead a stellar defensive performance. Middleton threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Scott. He added a 48-yard rushing score. Grayson Easterling hit three touchbacks and both extra points. 


Craven said the victory was even more important because it came on the heels of a 16-7 loss to Central Holmes Christian at home. He believes the confidence Oak Hill Academy gained from beating a quality Class A opponent that lost to Marshall Academy 29-21 in the second week of the season will help his team prepare for the challenge of going on the road to Holly Springs and winning a district title.  


"When they put it all on the line like that, you're not standing on the sideline, 'Well, I guess we're about to quit now because we're behind," Craven said. "That is not the thought that crosses my mind because that isn't what they have shown. ... The defense plays well and the offense has come along. Our guys play with heart and play together. What they have proven is they will play to the very end." 


Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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