OAK HILL — Nicholas County, a Class AA playoff quarterfinalist a year ago, took a little while to get untracked in its 2019 season opener.
And, following the game, the Grizzlies took several minutes to get into their locker room before they could track down the key.
However, Nicholas County didn't take very long to pile up 21 points in the third quarter en route to a 41-7 conquest of Oak Hill Friday at John P. Duda Stadium.
"I thought defensively we played well; one of the things we like to do is make sure we're aggressive and fly around and tackle defensively," said Nicholas County head coach Gene Morris. "Of course, we have a lot of returners back on that defense, and I thought they flew around and they kind of communicated very well."
"There are several things we need to improve on, but I'm very happy with the offensive line; I thought our line blocking was really good," Morris added.
In his first varsity start behind center, Nicholas County senior quarterback Timmy Baker rushed 18 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns and passed for a third TD on a 22-yard completion to Kyle Groves to lead the balanced Nicholas County offense.
Morris praised the play of his signal-caller. "I thought he controlled the offense well; that was the thing we wanted him to do," he said. "He wasn't out there to try to win the football game. We just wanted him to control the football game. ... He ran the offense very well.
"I thought tonight was a great first step."
Baker scored on a 45-yard jaunt in the second quarter to jump-start the Nicholas offense, and he found the end zone on a 56-yard sprint early in the third period to put the Grizzlies up 14-0. On the first score, he raced down his own sideline and eluded two Oak Hill defenders as he neared the goal line. On the second one, he faked a handoff to a teammate in the right flat and turned on the jets to go untouched to the end zone.
"They were stronger than us up front on both sides of the ball," said Oak Hill head coach Jason Blankenship. "And their backs were strong."
The Red Devils struggled to move the ball on the ground all night. Oak Hill got its lone score on a nifty 68-yard scoring hook-up between quarterback Cade Maynor and receiver Braxton Hall in the third period, and the PAT kick from Ethan Vargo-Thomas pulled the hosts to within 14-7 with 8:34 left in the third frame.
However, the Grizzlies responded with two quick scores to regain momentum before the start of the fourth. Zach O'Dell reached paydirt on an 8-yard run with 7:23 to go, with his score being set up by a 50-yard kick return by Justin Hill. Then, the Grizzlies boosted the lead to 28-7 on another 8-yard TD run, this one by Devin McKown with 2:53 to go. McKown's six-pointer was preceded by an interception by teammate Garrett Kesterson for the Grizzlies' prevent unit.
Groves' scoring reception from Baker, followed by Hill's 13-yard TD burst with 2:04 left in the contest, closed out the scoring.
"Offensively, we're still trying to figure out what it's about," Blankenship said.
"They did a nice job stripping the ball a couple of times," Morris said of Oak Hill's contributing to his team's first-half start. "We were just a little careless with it.
"Oak Hill's defense did a real good job on us in the first half."
Khalil Gray and Eli Selvey recovered fumbles for the Oak Hill defense in the first half.
"We needed something like that (the two takeaways) in the second half, but we didn't get it," Blankenship said.
"We kind of settled in, and once we (did that), we started making some plays, and that really helped," Morris said.
Maynor was 11-of-19 through the air for the Red Devils, accumulating 132 yards while throwing the TD pass and two interceptions. Hall caught two passes for 71 yards and a TD, and Leonard Farrow hauled in four aerials for 41 stripes.
Nicholas County played the game without the services of receiver Luke LeRose, who had to sit out the opening game because of an ejection in the Grizzlies' playoff loss to Weir last year.
Oak Hill (0-1) will visit Fayette County rival Midland Trail at Hico at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Nicholas County (1-0) will travel to Shady Spring Friday at 7:30 p.m.
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Nicholas County 41, Oak Hill 7
NC (1-0): 0 7 21 13 — 41
OH (0-1): 0 0 7 0 — 7
NC: Timmy Baker 45 run (Kyle Groves kick), 7:27, 7-0
NC: Baker 56 run (Groves kick), 10:34, 14-0
OH: Braxton Hall 68 pass from Cade Maynor (Ethan Vargo-Thomas kick), 8:34, 14-7
NC: Zach O'Dell 8 run (Groves kick), 7:23, 21-7
NC: Devin McKown 8 run (Groves kick), 2:53, 28-7
NC: Groves 22 pass from Baker (run fail), 8:29, 34-7
NC: Justin Hill 13 run (Groves kick), 2:04, 41-7
RUSHING — NC: Justin Hill 13-88-1, Timmy Baker 18-167-2, Zach O'Dell 13-100-1, Devin McKown 2-10-1, Tyler Sedlock 2-12, Jacob Williams 1-8, Team 2-5. OH: Logan Frantz 4-8, Eli Sedlock 3-1, Cade Maynor 2-(-17), Leonard Farrow 2-7, Jason Manns 5-14, Te-Amo Shelton 1-(-10), Rodell Allen 1-(-3).
PASSING — NC: Baker 6-10-0-78-1. OH: Maynor 11-19-2-132-1, Frantz 1-1-0-6-0.
RECEIVING — NC: Kyle Groves 3-45-1, Garrett Kesterson 1-12, Hill 2-21. OH: Brandon Wisen 3-16, Braxton Hall 2-71-1, Sedlock 1-0, Manns 2-4, Maynor 1-6, Farrow 4-41.
TAKEAWAYS — NC: Garrett Kesterson (INT), Justin Hill (INT). OH: Khalil Gray (FR), Eli Selvey (FR).