Ron Veres saw his Oak Park High football team cruise to a 24-6 victory over Montclair Prep on Saturday night in the first round of the Southern Section Division IX playoffs, and he will be the first not to take credit.
Veres offered credit for the win at Pierce College to another Division IX coach, one whose team did not make the playoffs: Village Christian’s Mike Plaisance.
Last week in its win against Alpha League co-champion Montclair Prep, Village Christian took advantage of a line-drive kickoff that bounced off Mountie players. Veres was at the game, taking notes.
The Eagles used that same kickoff twice to help take a 14-0 lead, “before you could blink an eye,” as Montclair Prep Coach George Giannini put it.
On the opening kickoff, Mike Stern lined a shot off Montclair Prep’s Henry Munoz and Stern recovered at the Mounties’ 45-yard line. Six plays later, Jason Stein scored from 9 yards for Oak Park (10-1), which finished second in the Tri-Valley League.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles used the same play for the same result: Dennis Lawson recovered the ball at the Montclair Prep 47-yard line after it had hit Munoz. Two plays later, Jess Garner scored from 1 yard and Stein’s 2-point conversion run gave Oak Park a 14-0 lead with 8:57 left in the first quarter.
“We’ve been practicing it all week. It’s amazing how well Stern can control the ball after he kicks it,” Veres said.
Stern’s kickoffs perplexed Giannini.
“How can you practice that? I could kick the ball 100 times and not have it hit a guy like that,” he said. “We dug ourselves in a hole and never got out of it.”
Stein rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown in 13 carries. Garner had 84 yards in 19 carries and kicked a 30-yard field goal with 1:11 left in the first half. Garner, the Oak Park fullback, has 1,007 yards rushing this season.
“Our offensive line won the game for us,” said Stein, a senior who has 971 yards rushing this season. “If you go down the line, they’re probably outweighed by 30-40 pounds each, but they did the job tonight.”
For Montclair Prep (6-5), running back Michael Jones had 159 yards in 18 carries and scored on an 18-yard run with 8:40 left in the first half to make the score, 14-6.
Jones, a junior, finished the season with 1,514 yards in 209 carries.
Oak Park took a 24-6 lead on an 83-yard touchdown pass from Gary Silverman to Brian Kane with 10:09 remaining in the third quarter.
Oak Park plays Kern Valley in the second round Friday.