Sep. 8—IJAMSVILLE — After a physical victory over Hollidaysburg, Allegany's start to the season doesn't get any easier.
The Campers head to Oakdale, ranked No. 9 in the state and No. 4 among public schools, tonight at 6:30 p.m. The Bears, with three players headed to Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision colleges next fall, may just be the most talented team on an area schedule this year.
Allegany (1-0) is relishing the opportunity.
"They're big, athletic, they have three to four game-changers," Allegany head coach Bryan Hansel said. "It's gonna be a really talented football team we get the pleasure of competing with."
Allegany overcame a rash of cramping and a quiet first half to win its Week 1 matchup with Hollidaysburg (Pennsylvania), 30-23, last Friday night.
The Campers, trailing 13-9 at intermission, faced further adversity when they fumbled on their first possession of the second half.
However, Allegany rallied and went on a 21-3 run to lead 30-16 midway through the fourth quarter. The Campers bludgeoned Hollidaysburg in the ground game, rushing for more than 300 yards, with six backs toting the ball at least six times.
"We made some good halftime adjustments, but I think they were adjustments we shouldn't have had to make," Hansel said of the Campers' Week 1 win. "We have to get back to how we were playing offensively and defensively in the summer. We need to rely on fundamentals and not our talent."
Brett Patterson led the way with 104 yards on 13 carries. Jackson Resh, Brody Williams, Isaiah Fields and Jacob Salonish also all had more than 40 yards on the ground.
Williams completed 5 of 10 passes for 107 yards. Tight end Zach Michael was his top target with two receptions for 59 yards.
Resh came up with a fumble recovery.
There is an expected high in the mid-to-upper 80s at kick-off against Oakdale Friday and a temperature that will feel like 92, so cramping will again be a point of concern.
"I hope with a week under our belt it'll help," Hansel said. "And the ones that cramped, we've been preaching diet and hydrating. We hope it's better."
Oakdale, located six miles southeast of Frederick in Ijamsville, opened in 2010 and Kurt Stein is the only coach in the school's history.
Stein, a graduate of Wheeling Central Catholic in West Virginia, was given the job at Oakdale at just 27 years of age, and he's built the Bears into a power, winning the 2018 Class 2A state title and finishing as state runner-up in 3A last season.
The Bears went into last season's playoffs at 7-2 before reeling off four-straight wins and falling to Damascus, 21-14, in Annapolis to finish 11-3.
Allegany and Oakdale have never played, but the Bears — with an enrollment of more than 1,400 students — have history with the Campers' crosstown adversary.
Oakdale finished a two-year deal with Fort Hill in 2022, and both results ended in routs as Fort Hill won 42-7 at Greenway Avenue Stadium and 49-21 last season in Frederick County.
The Bears elected not to renew the series, instead picking up the Campers.
"You always go get the film and pay attention to how they schemed, see what they're successful at and try to adapt it to what we do well," Hansel said of the Fort Hill-Oakdale film. "We did that, and we hope the plan we have offensively and defensively will prevail."
While Allegany entered 2023 with heightened expectations with a senior class 17 strong, a four-year starter at quarterback in Williams, a host of returning starters and Michael back healthy after an ACL tear, those expectations pale in comparison to what's presupposed of Oakdale.
Then there was the reclassification of Damascus to 2A and Frederick, which had a perfect regular season in 2022, to Class 4A/3A — which has prompted many across the state to anoint the Bears as prohibitive Class 3A favorites.
Oakdale, preseason No. 11 in the state media poll, then began the season with a 22-21 victory over reigning Class 2A state champion and No. 10 Milford Mill.
Turnovers played a key role in the victory over the Millers.
Oakdale's Brayden DeWaal jumped a route on a pass thrown by Millers' QB Deshawn Purdie — an All-State performer headed to Division 1 Charlotte — and returned it 61 yards to the house to make it a 7-0 game.
Nichols (6-foot-5, 250 poounds) had a fumble recovery and sealed the game with a sack of Purdie.
As one would expect in a season opener, even among public school powers, it was a sloppy game with seven combined turnovers. Oakdale coughed up the ball four times on two fumbles and two interceptions, and Milford Mill had three giveaways on two fumbles and a pick.
Despite Oakdale's sloppiness, the elite rushing ability of Austin (6-1, 180) was what propelled the Bears over the finish line.
Austin pulled the ball out of his tailback on a read option, made one cut and outran eight Milford Mill defenders for a 75-yard touchdown run on Oakdale's second TD.
Then, with Oakdale trailing 21-14, Austin scored on a run from seven yards out with 1:07 to play. He connected with Thompson on the two-point conversion try for the victory.
However, Austin is not infallible. While an impressive athlete, the senior quarterback does not appear to have elite throwing ability to match, which was evident against Fort Hill last season when he completed just 4 of 15 passes for 44 yards on a rainy night in Ijamsville.
"I've talked to some guys and they said he's not a great thrower, but I think he spins it pretty well," Hansel said. "We have to be disciplined with him. ... We have to get him off his marks when he is throwing it. It's a lot of discipline with him. Discipline in our pass rush, our pursuit and on the edge."
When Oakdale did need a big play to get chunk yardage against Milford Mill on its final drive, it drew up a double pass to Thompson, who hit Cole Swimmer 40 yards downfield during the nine-play, 80-yard winning drive.
Oakdale also ran a hook and ladder for a big play early in the game.
"A team like that with talent that's willing to do that, you have to alert your kids," Hansel said of the trick plays. "You just have to be alert to their playmakers."
Milford Mill found success against Oakdale's run defense, rushing for 270 yards.
Stein likes to run an up-tempo offense to tire out opposing defenses, so keeping the Bears off the field will be key. Sustained drives, fueled by the running game, will be vital for Allegany.
"We have to win the time of possession," Hansel said. "We have to limit their explosive plays. They're a big play team. If they want to score, we have to make them drive on us. We have to not lose the turnover battle.
"I think we have to run the ball well. Us getting off the ball and blocking with angles, the Wing-T scheme will allow our athletes to hopefully get our blockers up on them. Some of the misdirection can hopefully help with over-pursuit with their athletes. ... If we can't run the ball it's going to be a long night."
The Bears weren't at 100% when they fell to Fort Hill in 2022 as starting running back Daniel Joseph (5-10, 185) was sidelined after taking a helmet to his side against Middletown in Week 3, leaving him with a fractured rib and a punctured lung.
Joseph, who also missed his entire freshman and sophomore seasons with a torn ACL, returned late last year but wasn't healthy enough to contribute. Senior Rory Blanchard became the feature back as Joseph watched Oakdale make a run to the Class 3A state title game.
Stein referred to Joseph, now a senior, as one of the most talented players the program has ever had, according to the Frederick News Post.
If Allegany is to beat Oakdale, it would be the first team ranked in the state media poll the Campers have taken down since 2009.
That season, Allegany unseated No. 7 Fort Hill, 35-14, in the Class 1A West Region Final — the last time the Campers have beaten the Sentinels.
Dunbar was unranked in the 2017 preseason poll when Allegany won a 49-42 thriller at Greenway Avenue Stadium to open the season, and Boonsboro — undefeated at 10-0 entering the 2015 playoffs — was only receiving votes when the Campers won 6-3 in Tom Preaskorn's final victory.
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.