The opening game of the high school football season came down to the closing seconds, but the Oaks Christian Lions were able to pull out a 41-34 victory over Notre Dame on the same day that they re-named the football field in honor of longtime coach Bill Redell.
The clinching play Friday came with 21 seconds remaining, when senior wide receiver Michael Pittman caught a 38-yard pass in the end zone from sophomore quarterback Matt Corral. That touchdown was set up seconds earlier, when Notre Dame senior quarterback Cole Klayman had a pass intercepted by Colby Parkinson, giving possession back to the Lions.
Pittman (178 yards, three touchdowns) and Corral (15 of 27 passing, 252 yards and five total touchdowns) were the stars on the field, but the night belonged to Redell.
In his 13 seasons as head coach at Oaks Christian, Redell oversaw more than 125 athletes who played college football, along with four players who are currently in NFL. He's serving as the director of football operations this year after guiding the Lions to a 5-5 record in 2014.
"It's a very nice gesture on the school to be able to do that, and it's rather humbling," Redell said. "I really appreciate it. I think it's recognition of all the players that played there, and all the great assistant coaches that we've had."
Redell's replacement, Jim Benkert, was making his debut at Oaks Christian, but he is no stranger to the area. He coached at Westlake High for 26 years and worked with Redell in the 1980s.
It was a back-and-forth affair at Bill Redell Field, beginning with a one-yard touchdown run by Notre Dame's most potent offensive weapon, senior running back Leo Lambert III. Notre Dame went into halftime with a 21-14 lead, and had mostly been able to keep Corral and Pittman in check.
Lambert punched in his second touchdown early in the third quarter, giving the Knights a 28-14 lead. But Corral and Pittman started playing up to their potential, starting with a seven-yard run by Corral to cut the deficit to seven. Pittman caught a 28-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and it only got worse from there for Notre Dame.
Lambert was unable to finish the game after sustaining a blow to the head with 8:50 remaining while trying to catch a pass along the sideline. Oaks Christian was called for a personal foul on the play, eventually setting up a five-yard touchdown run by Chris Galvez to put his team back on top. But Notre Dame missed the extra point, giving Oaks Christian new life.