by Sam Chandler
CHELSEA — The Oak Mountain High School football team needed a jolt. Carson Bobo, all 6 feet 4 of him, delivered.
With his Eagles clinging to a 7-3 lead over Chelsea in the third quarter of a stagnant ball game, Bobo made his presence felt, though not from his usual position. The Oak Mountain senior tight end helps in punt coverage on special teams. That’s where he struck.
Bobo inflicted a jarring — but clean — hit on Chelsea’s return man as he tried to charge upfield. The blow electrified the Oak Mountain sideline and sent the student section into a frenzy. Bobo celebrated by leaping in the air and knocking helmets with his teammates.
“He turned right to me, and I’m like, ‘This is my time,’” Bobo said of the play. “I laid the wood. It never felt better.”
The collision triggered a tight series of events that enabled the Eagles to make it a two-score game and pull away for a 21-10 victory over Chelsea in both teams’ season opener.
Oak Mountain’s defense forced a quick three and out following Bobo’s blow. Five plays later, Eagles running back Luke Percer punched the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out.
“It’s a good first win for us,” Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell said. “It feels a whole lot better tonight than it did a year ago.”
Chelsea dispatched Oak Mountain, 49-33, in a high-scoring affair last August. Friday’s game in no way resembled that 2016 edition. This year’s matchup proved a defensive slugfest, with each offense failing to gain much traction.
Oak Mountain’s first drive of the night emerged as one of the lone exceptions. Under the command of quarterback Connor Webb, who started at safety last season, the Eagles used 13 plays to march 76 yards down the field. Percer capped the methodical drive with a 1-yard dive up the middle. He rushed 18 times for 77 yards and finished with three touchdowns on the night. His teammate, Connor Wilson, accumulated 75 yards on 16 carries.
Webb attempted only seven passes as he adjusted to life at his new position. But Bell liked what he saw.
“I thought the thing that he did was he battled all night,” Bell said of Webb. “He was better the last quarter and a half than he was the first two and a half quarters, and that’s what we’ve got to see.”
Oak Mountain’s defense also improved as the clock ticked. The unit, however, never really wavered. After the Eagles surrendered four first downs in the first half, Chelsea didn’t move the chains in the second half until the fourth quarter. A pass interference penalty was called against Oak Mountain with the Hornets facing a fourth-and-32. The play resulted in an automatic first down.
“They were better than us tonight,” Chelsea head coach Chris Elmore said. “Coach Bell and his staff had them ready.”
The Hornets scored their points on a 43-yard Colby Lambert field goal and a 4-yard TD pass from Turner Griffin to Lando Nichols that was completed with less than 30 seconds to play.
Both Chelsea and Oak Mountain will return to action next week. The Hornets will travel to Briarwood Christian for a rivalry game, and the Eagles will host Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
“I think … we’re ready to come out big for Hillcrest,” Bobo said.
It better be ready for him.