Carey School senior quarterback D.J. Simpson is a pretty decent scrambler, but the lanky 6-2, 160-pounder didn't find much running room Friday against an Oakley Hornets defense with a mission of contain and gang tackle.
The Hornets came to play and walked off Carey's Derrick Parke Memorial Field with a decisive 20-point triumph.
Oakley's 3-3 defensive alignment and tough tackling took away the flanks from Carey's offensive scheme of pass-and-run around the ends. Sure, Carey ran the middle, but Oakley converged quickly and made those yards tough as well.
Then there was Oakley's senior quarterback Mitch Bedke, one of three Bedkes on coach Nick Greenwell's 1A Division 1 squad. All Bedke did at Carey Friday night was rush for 121 yards and two touchdowns and pass for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
Another Bedke, senior middle linebacker Colton, was everywhere in seams (13 tackles).
Oakley (2-0) jumped ahead 16-0 and 24-8 and held on for a 44-24 non-conference victory, ending an 11-game, two-season Carey victory streak that went back to a 26-12 loss to Raft River last Sept. 1. The Panthers had won seven straight games on their home field dating to 2005.
"My compliments to Oakley," said Carey coach Lane Kirkland after the game. "Oakley is a good team, well balanced with great speed on both sides of the ball and tremendous defense. Their outside linebackers contained us well."
Carey's offense made its share of mistakes including two Cole Washburn interceptions that Oakley turned into touchdowns. But the Panther defense also underperformed, failing to wrap up Bedke a couple of key times and letting his receivers run free for scores.
"We're still making too many mistakes," said Kirkland.
Although the Panther defense yielded 408 rushing yards and 550 total yards to the Oakley offense, Carey wasn't shabby on the attack with 17 first downs and 281 rushing yards. But the pressured Panthers just couldn't pass. Simpson's longest completion was 13 yards. A week before, he had thrown for 279 yards and six touchdowns against Shoshone.
Limiting Simpson's options was the absence of senior Connor Rivera, who re-cracked his collarbone (track injury) and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks, Kirkland said.
But there were positives.
Simpson had a rollercoaster night, punting well (44.0 yards per kick) and returning an interception for a touchdown. He and his receivers were out of synch, however, and Simpson had problems in pass defense.
Junior Heith Adamson was reliable with 110 hard-earned rushing yards on 23 carries. His 32-yard kickoff return set up Carey's final touchdown, a 13-yard pass from Simpson to Blake Whitby. Simpson added 133 rushing yards, 84 coming after the half. Gonzalo Zarate threw Bedke for a safety.
Tackle leaders were Whitby (11) and Scott Ellsworth (10). Ellsworth made a bunch of open field stops that kept Oakley from moving up the field.
"We moved the ball well in the second half but didn't punch it in," said Kirkland. "We had some momentum with three or four Oakley turnovers and just couldn't convert them. That kind of thing takes a toll."
Kirkland added, "I learned we could run the ball well up the middle and our young linemen got some more experience. You don't like to lose, but it was a good pre-season game to experience for us.
"We fought hard. We still have to learn to take it all the way to the end of the game."
Oakley (4-4 in 2005, 6-3 with a 39.1 scoring average last fall) has been knocking on the Magic Valley Conference door for coach Greenwell the past two seasons and it appears the Hornets can challenge for the Division 1 regional title.
The Hornets (102 points in 2 games to date) will find out better in the next two weeks. Oakley visits Lighthouse Christian Academy (2-0) Friday, Sept. 7 in Twin Falls and hosts Raft River of Malta (2-0) on Sept. 21.
Carey built an early lead and won Friday's junior varsity preliminary game 24-22 behind the quarterbacking of Dillon Simpson and Trevor Peck.
After two homes games Carey now has three on the road prior to the Homecoming game against Dietrich Sept. 28.
Carey (1-1) opens its Sawtooth Conference title defense Friday, Sept. 7 with a 7 p.m. game at Richfield (1-1). Richfield opened with a 26-0 home win over Hansen Aug. 24 and lost 34-6 at Shoshone Friday.
Generally Carey hasn't had too much trouble with Richfield football teams. The Panthers won 50-0 two years ago in their last visit down the road to Richfield, and Carey prevailed 51-6 last fall on their home turf with QB Simpson throwing for 211 yards and four touchdowns.
Richfield last beat Carey in 2004 on the Carey gridiron by a 38-34 score, thereby snapping a 15-game losing streak to Panther grid teams.
In other news, the Hansen Huskies (1-1) followed up their shutout loss at Richfield with a 6-0 home victory over Mackay (0-2) Friday. It was Hansen's first football win since 2004 after back-to-back 0-9 and 0-8 campaigns on the field.