Happening Now

Ohatchee Uses Tribal Approach

Ohatchee’s Nate Jones breaks one of his two long touchdown runs en route to a 155-yard night against Saks. (Photo by Greg Warren)
Ohatchee’s Nate Jones breaks one of his two long touchdown runs en route to a 155-yard night against Saks. (Photo by Greg Warren)

Ohatchee, AL – Ohatchee flashes multiple stars, multiple looks on a night of big plays while opening the season with a 32-8 victory over visiting Saks.

Ohatchee quarterback Jake Robertson throws a pass to Nate Jones during the Indians’ 32-8 victory over Saks on Thursday at Ohatchee. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/Gunghophotos.com)
Ohatchee quarterback Jake Robertson throws a pass to Nate Jones during the Indians’ 32-8 victory over Saks on Thursday at Ohatchee. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/Gunghophotos.com)

By Joe Medley

Who are these Ohatchee Indians, and from where did all of these new was to circle the wagons come?

Nate Jones rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns on a night when several Indians made an impact, two quarterbacks played, passing became more of a mix than a trick and they recovered an onsides kick.

Ohatchee’s Colby Hester intercepts a pass that he would return 74 yards for a touchdown in the Indians’ 32-8 victory over visiting Saks. (Photo by Greg Warren/For East Alabama Sports Today)
Ohatchee’s Colby Hester intercepts a pass that he would return 74 yards for a touchdown in the Indians’ 32-8 victory over visiting Saks. (Photo by Greg Warren/For East Alabama Sports Today)

Add Colby Hester’s 74-yard interception return for a touchdown Thursday, and Ohatchee looked far better than the injury-racked team that opened 2022 0-7. The Indians rolled to a 32-8 victory over visiting Saks in Alphonso Freeney’s first game as the Wildcats’ head caoch.

“That’s a good win over a what I think is good football team,” Ohatchee coach Chris Findley said. “I think Coach Freeney is going to do a a real good job with that football team, and they’re going to win a lot of games this year.

“Looking back on this later in the year, I think it’s going to be a really good win for us.”

Findley enters his second full season as head coach after taking over for Scott Martin four weeks into the 2021 season, but his 2023 staff includes five new faces. It looks like they brought new ideas.

It’s the same, base “Ugly Eagle” offense, but the Indians showed multiple looks and new twists.

Multiple looks come with multiple quarterbacks. Jake Roberson is the starter and completed four of eight passes for 44 yards, all while the Indians built a 14-8 halftime lead. He might’ve hit a touchdown pass to Hester, but for an interference penalty on Saks that limited the gain to 15 penalty yards.

Ohatchee hit that play to Hester for touchdowns twice during their jamboree last week.

The Indians rarely passed between 2015 and 2022. When they passed, they passed hoping for home runs against drawn-up defenses, but like Roberson’s over-the-top shots to Hester. The look Thursday included short passes and screens, more possession passing. Receivers included Hester, a wing back, Jesse Baswell, who plays more as a tight end when not at quarterback, and Jones.

“I think we’ve got the personnel,” Findley said. “You play to what you want to be, as far as your identity, and we definitely a physical identity, a control-the-ball and control-the-clock identity, but you also have to balance that out with who your personnel are.

“We’ve got Jake at quarterback, and he can really throw the ball. We’ve got a couple of guys that can go and catch the ball. We want to be able to do all things and make people defend all things.”

Baswell brought a different look at quarterback, taking direct snaps and running. His 62 first-half yards included touchdown runs of two and four yards.

“Something we worked on during the offseason is being able to show people different formations and different kinds of things,” Findley said. “A lot of times, people could spend all week working on one formation or two formations that we run.

“We wanted to be a little more multiple and still be able to run our offense and run our stuff.”

New offensive wrinkles weren’t Ohatchee’s only tricks. After retaking a 14-8 on Baswell’s 4-yard run at 11:15 of the second quarter, the Indians executed an onsides kick. The ball squirted through the hands of several stunned Saks players before Hester recovered.

The extra possession didn’t result in more points but did give Ohatchee more ball control. The Indians ran 35 plays to Saks’ 11 in the first half. That included a 15-play, 77-yard drive to open the game, leading to Baswell’s 2-yard touchdown run.

The second half belonged to Jones and Hester. Jones, who rushed for 20 yards in the first half, broke touchdown runs of 56 yards in the third quarter and 52 in the fourth.

Jones called his second half a little bit of Ohatchee wearing Saks down.

“That, and the line just came out and made massive holes,” he said. “Just huge.”

Hester made the defensive play of the night, coming off of his man to run under a Jamorris Young’s deep pass then returning it 74 yards for a touchdown to make it 26-8 with 30 seconds left the third quarter. Hester guarded Christian Smith down the sideline but broke off and beat Jacori Avery to what appeared to be a perfect lead pass.

“I saw it at first,” Hester said. “Then it hit my hand, and I didn’t realize I had it until I looked down. I just realized I had to go take it to the house.”

Young’s first start as Saks’ quarterback started with promise. Saks quickly responded to Ohatchee’s first touchdown, going 57 yards in five plays before Young, a freshman who transferred from Ohatchee, cashed in with a one-year keeper. Saks’ conversion gave the Wildcats an 8-6 lead at 1:15 of the first quarter.

Nick Mixson started the drive with a 43-yard run and finished with 79 yards on the night.

The answer to Ohatchee’s first touchdown was the high-water mark in Alphonso Freeney’s first regular-season game as Saks’ head coach.

“They were just more physical than us,” said Freeney, a former Jacksonville State University fullback who came from Pasco (Fla.) High School to Saks after Jonathan Miller left for Piedmont. “They were more physical, more disciplined.

“It’s something we worked on all week, and it’s something that we as coaches are going to have to do a better job of getting them ready. I felt like my kids played hard. It’s just the little things, like tackling, but we’ll get it fixed. We’ll be all right. That’s why you have these non-region games.”

Saks’ Jacori Avery runs for yardage against Ohatchee during their regular-season opener Thursday at Ohatchee. (Photo by B.J. Frankin/Gunghophotos.com)
Saks’ Jacori Avery runs for yardage against Ohatchee during their regular-season opener Thursday at Ohatchee. (Photo by B.J. Frankin/Gunghophotos.com)
Ohatchee’s Nate Jones breaks one of his two long touchdown runs en route to a 155-yard night against Saks. (Photo by Greg Warren)
Ohatchee’s Nate Jones breaks one of his two long touchdown runs en route to a 155-yard night against Saks. (Photo by Greg Warren)

Paid Advertisement – Click for More Information

Nail Plus

Paid Advertisement – Click for More Information

Weaver Police Department now hiring

Paid Advertisement – Click for More Information

JLM Coms

Paid Advertisement – Click for More Information

McClellan Inn Ad