Oak Ridge used its rushing attack to pull past Conroe for a 42-35 win in District 15-6A play at Moorhead Stadium on Friday night.
Conroe’s playoff chances were spoiled first by Klein Cain, which beat Klein Oak on Thursday night. Entering Friday night, the Tigers needed a win over Oak Ridge and for last-place Klein Forest to beat The Woodlands to enter the postseason for the first time since 2013. Neither result happened.
“We made big strides,” Conroe coach Cedric Hardeman said of his team after its second year under him. “I still don’t think the record was indicative of the strides the kids had. Before today, we were two plays from coming in here 8-1 and only having one loss in district — a play here against (Klein) Collins and a play against (Klein) Oak. I’m proud of them.”
The War Eagles (3-7, 2-6) trailed by 15 early Friday night, then scored 29 unanswered points and never gave the lead back.
“We felt like we could run the football on them,” coach Mark Schmid said. “We tried to do some other things early. When we decided that we were really going to devote our offense on the field to running the football, I felt like that’s when things started kicking in.”
Conroe (5-5, 4-4) led 21-14 at halftime thanks to a trio of touchdown connections between Christian Pack and Michael Phoenix II, the leaders in the district in their respective categories.
Pack wrapped up the season with 2,596 yards, 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions unofficially. On the ground, the quarterback had 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns.
“It’s just the kid,” Hardeman said. “It’s really the preparation and it’s who that kid is. He comes to work every day, has a lot of faith, he’s a tough kid, he’s smart, he’s team-first. I’m just happy that he was able to have the type of the season he had and its indicative of the work. His numbers don’t even come close to the type of kid he is. Who he is is the reason why he’s going to be successful when he’s done playing.”
Phoenix had 78 catches for 1,366 yards and 22 touchdowns unofficially on the season.
“The kid’s a dog, man,” Hardeman said. “He comes to work every day. I think (Pack and Phoenix) have kind of shown the foundation of what it means to come to work. When nobody’s out here, they came to throw and catch all summer. They’re in the weightroom, watching film, you’ve got to pull them our of drills. That’s just what we want our program to be about. I’m happy I had two kids like those two to start that habit for our younger kids.”
In the game, Pack was 15 of 32 for 278 yards, four touchdowns and an interception and added 140 yards on the ground. Phoenix had seven catches for 177 yards and four touchdowns. Phoenix’s first three catches were touchdowns Friday night.
Oak Ridge tailback Alton McCaskill rushed in touchdowns of 11 and 13 yards to keep the War Eagles within a score in the first half. McCaskill had 186 rush yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. Kywon Morgan had 161 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
“We got some great play up front by the offensive line and some explosive runs by Kywon Morgan and Alton McCaskill,” Schmid said. “Those things kind of sparked and lifted the offense.”
McCaskill’s third touchdown, a 70-yard sprint, tied the game on the first drive of the second half. After Christian Jones stripped the ball on the ensuing kickoff, Nick Osborne connected with Justin Beaudion for a 17-yard touchdown to put the War Eagles ahead. Late in the third quarter, McCaskill scored on fourth and goal to extend the lead to 35-21.
“I didn’t do a good job of preparing them and that’s on me,” Hardeman said. “Hats off to coach Schmid and his staff, with (former Conroe) coach (Robert) Walker over there. I knew they were going to come out and their guys ready to play. They did a good job.”
Conroe outscored Oak Ridge 14-7 in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough to erase the streak of unanswered points put up by the War Eagles.
Schmid praised his team — which he took over in the summer after former head coach Dereck Rush left for an athletic director position with Bryan ISD — for fighting through a season that got off to a bumpy start.
“It was very unconventional and not a perfect scenario, but it wasn’t a perfect scenario for the kids, either,” Schmid said. “All I wanted to do was to come in and offer some stability and some leadership and the guidance. The kids accepted me and did a great job of making adjustments to a new coach. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them for that. They didn’t ask for this, but it’s what they had to deal with and they handled it like champions.”