Detroit — Oak Park had bad memories from Adams Field last year, losing to Utica Eisenhower in the opener and then to eventual state champion Warren DeLaSalle in the Division 2 regional final.
Oak Park — ranked No. 4 in The Detroit News Super 20 rankings — showed it’s a new season, defeating No. 13 Eisenhower in the rematch, 31-13, Thursday night in the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic at Adams Field.
And, it was Oak Park running back Phillip Stewart who proved to be the difference, rushing for 180 yards on 14 carries, including a highlight 29-yard TD run on fourth down to open a 25-13 lead late in the third quarter.
Stewart picked up 17 yards on a third-and-1 to get inside the 5 on Oak Park’s first drive to set up a TD, then broke loose for 31 yards to set up the second score for a 13-0 cushion.
But, it was the 29-yard TD run that got all the attention.
“If it wasn’t for Justin I wouldn’t have scored,” Stewart said of Oak Park's four-star junior offensive lineman Justin Rogers. “Justin blocked the edge, I slipped a tackle and made a house call (reached the end zone).”
Said Rogers: “He’s definitely making a name for himself. Nobody knew about him so he’s going to make a name for himself all season.”
Stewart, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior, had to step up with Torriano Richardson sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis showed why he is considered one of the top players in the state.
Mathis, a 6-foot-5 senior, set up the first touchdown on the opening series by hooking up with Sacari Reese for 24 yards on a third-and-13 play, leading to Mathis’ 4-yard TD run.
Oak Park increased the lead to 13-0 with a 78-yard drive, with Mathis scrambling away from a rush and finding Jesse Brown in the end zone for a 26-yard TD pass with 10:24 left in the half, giving Oak Park a 145-18 advantage in total yards.
Things just got worse for Eisenhower on its next series with first-year starting quarterback Blake Rastigue getting the ball stripped on an option run by Dondi Price and Enzo Jennings scooping the ball up and running 49 yards for a TD and 19-0 cushion just 28 seconds after Mathis’ TD pass.
“It was very important,” Mathis said of the big lead. “Usually we come out sluggish, but this is just a message that we’re trying to send that we’re a changed team. It’s a different culture this year, a different kind of program and we’re going to carry ourselves differently.
“Coming in our game plan was to run the ball through the tackles. It wasn’t to play pretty ball or run around and throw it. It was a message to send back after what they did to us last year (Eisenhower 24-7 win), and it showed we’re on the right track.”
Oak Park piled up 289 yards on the ground on 33 carries.
Oak Park had the opportunity to increase the 19-0 lead following a short Eisenhower punt that gave it the ball at the 39. But Oak Park self-destructed on the drive, opening the door for Eisenhower to get back in the game.
Multiple penalties and Mathis’ deflected pass that an offensive lineman caught for a 12-yard loss set it back to its own 39, then Stewart was stripped by Jai-Javante Reid and Eisenhower’s Kaelen Duda pounced on the ball at the Oak Park 29.
Eisenhower took advantage of the turnover when Rastigue found running back Caleb Oyster over the middle for a TD pass on the first play to cut the deficit to 19-6 with seven minutes left in the half.
Oak Park gave Eisenhower life and Rastigue much needed confidence, and Eisenhower used the momentum to pull within 19-13 at halftime.
Rastigue engineered an 80-yard drive, connecting on 5-of-6 passes for 83 yards, finding Oyster three times for 56 yards, including a 31-yard TD on a third-and-10 screen pass with 29 seconds left.
Eisenhower had a chance to tie or take the lead early in the third quarter. Rastigue led Eisenhower from its own 27 to the Oak Park 22, but his third- and fourth-down passes were incomplete.
Then Stewart went to work. After rushing for 101 yards on eight carries in the first half, he used his speed to get around the right side for 27 yards to the Oak Park 49.
Then, on fourth-and-1 from the Eisenhower 29, Stewart was pinned by two defenders behind the line, but skipped away from them, then cut up the middle and broke loose for the highlight-reel TD for the 25-13 lead with four minutes left in the third.
Rastigue was outstanding with the mid-range tosses, but overthrew receivers who got behind the secondary on several throws. He moved Eisenhower to Oak Park’s 27 late in the third before failing to connect on a fourth-and-1 pass. He was also stopped on a quarterback sneak at the Oak Park 1 on fourth down with four minutes remaining
Rastigue finished 14-of-25 for 201 yards with Oyster having six receptions for 105 yards and accounting for 168 all-purpose yards.
Mathis, who scored on a 1-yard run with 7:36 left to open up a 31-13 lead, completed 9-of-13 for 72 yards, throwing just one pass during the second half when Oak Park had 167 rushing yards.
More Thursday games
Bloomfield Hills Cranbook-Kingswood, 13 Redford Union 0: Conner Toomey had 12 tackles, three for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook.
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 31, Saline 26: No. 5 Chippewa Valley came back from a 13-0 first half deficit to defeat Saline. Trailing 19-14 at halftime, Chippewa Valley scored 17 unanswered points to take control. Chippewa Valley senior QB Tommy Schuster was 15-of-24 passing for 168 yards and 2 TDs.
Dearborn Heights Crestwood 25, Detroit Central 18: Terrence Ealy had 175 yards throwing, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown, Justin Tuggle had a 58-yard touchdown run, and Victor Nelson had eight tackles for Central (0-1). Crestwood is 1-0.
Flat Rock 15, Garden City 0: Ravion Davis had 122 all-purpose yards and two TDs for Flat Rock. Jay Casponguay had 73 rushing yards for Garden City.
Madison Heights Bishop Foley 42, Detroit Public Safety 32: Kendall Taylor had 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Bishop Foley. Christian Smith had 12 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble while rushing for two scores and Shunndean Bridges had 230 yards passing and three touchdowns for Public Safety.
Sterling Heights Stevenson 33, Temperance Bedford 21: Justin McCowan was 7-for-13 passing for 202 yards and three touchdowns, Nick Wingfield rushed 11 times for 100 yards and a score, Chris Wright had eight carries for 67 yards and a touchdown and Noah Gabriel recorded 11 tackles and a forced fumble for Stevenson.
Warren Mott 35, Ann Arbor Skyline 12: James Murray had 14 tackles, three for loss and three sacks, James Chaney had a 68 and seven yard TD run and threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Madison, Jake Dube had a 16-yard touchdown run and Dylan VanConant had a 18-yard touchdown run for Mott.