OAKLAND — No. 3 Oakland-Craig capitalized on four turnovers by No. 7 Wilber-Clatonia to take down the Wolverines 35-21 Friday night in a Class C-2 quarterfinal.
The Knights turned away a second-half rally by Wilber-Clatonia that saw a 20-point lead shrink to seven in the third quarter.
The win gives the Knights their first trip to the state semifinals since 2015.
“We had a lot of question marks coming into this year,” Oakland-Craig coach Joe Anderson said. “We don’t have a lot of all-stars, we just got a lot of blue-collar, hard-working football players that come to work and play to win.”
Oakland-Craig got off to a hot start, scoring on its second drive of the first half when Jefferson McNeill ran it in from 8 yards out.
Tyson Harney picked off Wilber-Clatonia’s Michael Pulliam on the ensuing drive to put the Knights within striking distance again, and Robby Mayberry scored his first of two touchdowns to put Oakland-Craig up 14-0.
Mayberry racked up 139 yards on 36 attempts on the ground for the Knights.
“We had way too many mistakes,” Wilber-Clatonia coach Lynn Jurgens said. “Those are things you can’t do against a good team, and that’s probably the difference in the game.”
Oakland-Craig led 20-0 at the half, but Anderson said he wanted to make sure his team knew the game was far from over.
He was right.
Coltin Rezabek scored on a 23-yard touchdown run on Wilber-Clatonia’s first drive of the second half to cut the lead to 20-7.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game happened on the ensuing kickoff, when Oakland-Craig’s Jaron Meyer fumbled the ball at midfield. He jumped into a scrum of players and retained possession of the ball for the Knights, who scored seven plays later on another Mayberry run.
But the Wolverines wouldn’t go away.
Rezabek scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter to get Wilber-Clatonia within seven at 28-21.
“We knew we had more depth on the line,” Oakland-Craig’s Mayberry said. “So we knew our line had to just keep pushing, and controlling the line of scrimmage. It was a play-by-play, yard-by-yard game.”
That plan worked, as Oakland-Craig’s defense held strong in the fourth quarter, even when Wilber-Clatonia stopped the Knights and had the ball with 5:32 left in the game.
The Knights forced yet another turnover, the fourth of the night, and took over at the Wolverine 20-yard line with just over three minutes to go.
Jared Mulder scored five plays later to stamp the 35-21 victory.
“Our guys just fought back all night,” Anderson said. “We just found a way to force turnovers and finish drives off. That’s what sealed it.”