By Doug Gorman
If Ola head football coach John Kovzel was looking for a confidence booster for his team, he found it Friday night as his Mustangs' rolled to 24-10 victory against Henry County in a non-region contest.
Ola knocked off the two-time region champions with an impressive second-half performance by its offense and defense.
With the game tied at 7-all in the first half, the Mustangs used three straight second half scores to pull away from the Warhawks and win for the first time in the three-game series.
"It's a really big win for us," Kovzel said. "It's the first time our seniors have had a chance to play them in a game that really counts. This is a huge stepping stone for us as we move into the region."
The Mustangs spread the wealth throughout the game, relying on a triple threat to get its ground game on track.
Victor Griffin scored two touchdowns for the Mustangs and Tre McBride and Ryan Arnold picked up some key first downs throughout the night as Ola jumped started its season with a victory against its biggest rivals.
"It feels really good," McBride said. "It's the first time the seniors have had a chance to play Henry County and they are our big rivals."
At the start of the week, Kovzel things were going to go.
"Our kids did a great job executing tonight," Kovzel said. "We had an off week of practice, but our kids came out focused and did a great job."
The Mustangs took a 7-0 lead on its first series of the game thanks to a gift by the Warhawks' defense.
After appearing to come up with a fourth quarter stop, the Warhawks were whistled for a personal foul, giving the Mustangs an automatic first down.
They took advantage. After the penalty, first -year starting quarterback Neal Gandee led them down field, finishing the drive with a 13-yard screen pass to Brad Blount at the 6:21 mark of the first quarter for the early touchdown.
The Warhawks tied the game at 7 on the next series, marching 63-yards. Telly Sloan capped the drive with a third-down touchdown run when he ran the ball in from the two.
Ola regained the lead on the first series of the third quarter, building a 10-7 margin on Jacob Law's 44-yard field goal.
Henry County quickly struck back on its next series, starting with the ensuing kickoff as Keilan Mann returned the ball to Ola 17.
But like Ola, the Mustangs had to settle for a field goal, Michael Landis got the ball in between the uprights on a 33-yard kick. It was the last score of the game for the Warhawks, tying the contest at 10-all.
Ola then put together the longest drive of the contest as they kept the ball 18 plays and marched 76 yards, finished it off on Griffin's 7-yard run to give the Mustangs a 17-0 lead.
Solid defensive then played a part in Ola getting the ball back. After marching into Ola territory, the Warhawks gave the ball back to the Mustangs when Justin Gant recovered a Warhawk fumble.
The turnover set stage for the Mustangs' last score. Ryan Arnold's 27-yard run was the longest play of the drive and Ola also converted on fourth-down.
Two plays later, Griffin added his second TD of the night.
"I just came out and did what I had to do," Griffin said. "I wouldn't have been able to do it, if it wasn't for the offensive line."
Ola returns home next week when it takes on Whitewater in the Region 3-AAAA opener. Henry County plays at home against Eagle's Landing Christian in a non-region contest.