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Cougars shock Devils

November 01, 2008|By MARK KELLER

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. -- The most common reason one might not see Tim Oden on the football field is his height, which is listed on the Jefferson roster at 5 feet, 6 inches.

At the end of Friday night's game against No. 1 Greencastle-Antrim, Oden wasn't readily visible because he was at the bottom of a dog pile.

Oden picked off a pass from Greencastle quarterback Adam Ritchey and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game as the Cougars upset the Blue Devils 33-27 to spoil their hopes of a perfect regular season.

"It was a focal point for us that they were undefeated," Jefferson coach Richard Mills said. "Since we can't make the playoffs, we thought maybe we could spoil their perfect season. It took every ounce that we had to get by them."

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The Blue Devils (9-1) had already matched a school record for most wins in a season and were looking to roll into the postseason with an unblemished record.

Instead, they'll be looking to regroup and refocus for the District 3 playoffs after a disappointing loss in the final seconds of their final regular-season game.

"Good teams bounce back, and that's what we're going to have to do now," Greencastle coach Chuck Tinninis said. "You've got to give those guys credit. They beat us. No excuses."

Perhaps fittingly, the game ended as it began, with the Blue Devils turning the ball over. While returning the opening kickoff, Jacob Statler had the ball swiped from his hands by Jefferson's Garrett Grantham to set up the Cougars' first touchdown.

From there, Greencastle seemed to be fighting an uphill battle all the way to the end, when Oden jumped up to intercept Ritchey's pass and weaved his way down the field for the final score as time ran out.

"We had guys with shots on him but couldn't make the tackle," Tinninis said. "The kid made a big play and ran it back."

The interception wasn't the only big play of the game for Oden. He also recovered a fumble and dropped ball carriers in the backfield on consecutive plays to help stall another Greencastle drive.

"Tim played an excellent defensive game. He's short in stature but big in heart," Mills said of the senior linebacker. "We're going to miss him next year."

After Greencastle's Seth Shindle scored on a reverse with 1:44 left in the game to tie it at 27, the Blue Devils defense stiffened and forced Jefferson to punt. After a good return, Greencastle had the ball on its own 47 with 19 seconds left.

Rather than playing for overtime, the Blue Devils took a shot at moving into field goal range. Ritchey overthrew his first pass, then was picked by Oden on his second.

Jefferson quarterback Brandon Hyler ran for two touchdowns, including an electrifying 54-yard score in which he made four Greencastle defenders miss him. He also threw for a touchdown and kicked a crucial extra point in the fourth quarter.

Ritchey also ran for a pair of touchdowns, including a 76-yard score made possible by a great downfield block by Derek Smith. He led all rushers with 99 yards.

The Blue Devils fought against horrible field position the entire first half, starting four of their six drives inside their own 20. Meanwhile, Jefferson (3-6) started three of its first-half drives inside the Greencastle 25.

Still, the game was tied at 14 at halftime.

"On that opening kickoff, there was room there. If he hit that, he could have scored," Tinninis said. "He just grabbed the ball right off our kid. We kept having to fight to get out of a hole and could never get the momentum to go our way."

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