Horton, James lift Oakland to seventh consecutive semifinal appearance

MURFREESBORO — Isaiah Horton made another eye-popping catch near the end of the first half of Friday’s Class 6A quarterfinal against Riverdale.

It was another heavy blow in the Battle of the ‘Boro sequel, and the second game ended on the same side the first one did — Oakland’s.

Horton’s one-handed diving grab capped a 20-point second quarter for the Patriots, which helped boost the hosts to a 39-14 win over the visiting Warriors at Ray Hughes Stadium.

“I wasn’t making my plays,” Horton said. “I’ve got to do what I do best and be a playmaker. When Coach (Creasy) calls my number, I don’t want to fold under pressure and make the big play.”

Oakland (13-0) didn’t need a ton of production from Horton, as Jordan James helped carry the load with 217 total yards, including a 90-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from Ian Schlacter that came on a second-and-30 after penalties had set the Patriots back on the drive. That play put the Patriots up 32-14 with 4:59 to play and turned out to be a big swing play.

“We were backed up and things were getting hairy with six minutes to go,” Creasy said. “We were up two scores, but it wasn’t two touchdowns, so that play was huge, and I think a lot of credit has got to go to Ian Schlacter as well. He put it right on the money.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Oakland’s offense got started in the second quarter with James getting in the end zone on a 6-yard run with 8:40 left in the half.

Riverdale’s offense, meanwhile, had a hard time getting out of neutral in the first 24 minutes, as the Warriors (10-3) crossed midfield once in the opening half before fumbling away its furthest advance and setting up Horton’s end zone acrobatics.

“We could not get the chains moving in the first half,” Kriesky said. “(Oakland) had short fields and that really, really hurt us. We had our backs against against the wall and it was a struggle for us to move the ball.”

The Warriors’ offense came unshackled in the second half and kept themselves within reach as Marcus Lloyd found the end zone twice, on a 1-yard run and a 12-yard pass from Jameson Holcomb.

“This team’s come a long way,” Riverdale head coach Will Kriesky said. “They’ve rebounded each week. I’m really proud of these seniors. They’ve done a lot of firsts around here. First 10-win season in eight years, first time beating Blackman in seven years, first time we’ve made the quarterfinals in eight years. They’re trying to help make this program take a step in the right direction.”

Lloyd’s scores sandwiched James’ 2-yard TD run, and with 6:27 left, it was still a 26-14 game. Then Schlacter and James helped put the game away, but only after a chop block and a delay of game penalty set the Patriots’ offense back to its own 10-yard line, facing second-and-30. Schlacter found James over the middle and behind the Warrior secondary, and James’ speed took care of the rest.

“People better realize that he can catch the ball, too,” Creasy said. “He is the complete back. He can block, he can catch, he can run and a bunch of people know about his running, but he’s blocking and catching really well, too. And that’s what makes him a complete player.”

There were numerous penalties on both sides. Riverdale was penalized for 139 yards, while the Patriots had 117 yards of setbacks.

“There’s a lot of mistakes (to clean up), but you get that sometimes in these pressure games,” Creasy said. “Pressure was getting to both sides and there were some uncharacteristic flags on both sides.”

Oakland reaches its seventh consecutive semifinal and will host Maryville, the same opponent it has faced in each of the previous six fourth-round affairs. The home team has won each of the last five semifinal meetings.

For Horton — who transferred from Ensworth earlier this year — it’s his first time seeing Maryville, but he’s heard plenty about the Rebels, so he’s excited to get the chance to face them.

“It’s already hit me,” Horton said. “After this game, I’m ready now, focused. I’m locked in on Maryville now.”

James is in the same boat after transferring from Brentwood Academy earlier in the season, so Creasy knows he has to temper their expectations about the highly-anticipated matchup.

“I think those guys are going to be in for a dogfight like they were tonight,” Oakland head coach Kevin Creasy said. “They better understand that Maryville wins a bunch of games because they expect to win. And they’re going to come here Friday night expecting to win.”

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