Oakmont keeps playoff hopes alive with win over Ponderosa

Quarterback Jake Knapp posts impressive three-touchdown game to beat the Bruins
By: Jorden P. Hales - For The Press Tribune
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After erasing a 14-point halftime deficit, the Oakmont High football team needed five big plays to get their fifth win of the 2016 season and become playoff eligible.

The Vikings leaned heavily on seniors Jake Knapp and Connor Gagain as they drove down the field for a fourth-quarter touchdown and serendipitous two-point conversion to take a 36-28 lead with 4:15 left in regulation. That’s when the defense stepped up and produced four critical stops, including a sack and a blocked pass on a throw from Ponderosa quarterback Jeff Martin, to seal the win. 

Those key plays from their defense and the outstanding performance from Knapp helped the Vikings seal their fifth win of the season and improve to 2-3 in CVC play. 

“The program feels different this year,” senior tight end Connor Gagain acknowledged. “We’ve bought in, and well all want to win.”

Gagain, who finished with four catches for 27 yards and added a one-handed touchdown catch midway through the game, made another big play for the Vikings following their final touchdown.  On the ensuing extra point, the snap was botched and Knapp, who’s also the team’s kicker, picked it up. 

Much like he did for most of the night, he scrambled and avoided pressure before finding Gagain open for the two-point conversion. 

“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” Knapp admitted, laughing and breathing a sigh of relief.

Knapp uttered those exact words at the end of last season after the Vikings fell to Roseville in their season finale, capping a two-year stretch through which the team went 3-17. But ability to correct those sorts of errors and the smart play of Knapp has transformed Oakmont into a playoff contender. 

“It was a missed play, (but) we turned it into an opportunity and made something happen,” Knapp explained, adding that the improved attitude and elevated confidence that comes with winning has created a more positive environment throughout his school. Each Vikings win has boosted morale both on the field and in the bleachers, making Oakmont a more challenging environment for the opposition.

“It affects the energy in school, too,” Knapp added. “People are getting behind us, it gets everyone excited and ready to play.”

The added excitement could be derived from some of the eye-popping plays the Vikings were making on the field. 

In the first half, Knapp found senior Erik Holmsen for a 74-yard score to put Oakmont on the board. Gagain then hauled in his one-handed touchdown catch before Knapp pulled out a two-point conversion on a fake extra point attempt. 

Knapp added a catch on a halfback pass in the second half as the Vikings started to roll. 

“At halftime, when we were down 14, I kept telling our teammates ‘We’re better than this team and we’re in a good spot playing at home. We can win this game easily,’” Knapp recalled. 

The senior quarterback finished the game 14-of-19 for 259 yards and two scores. He showcased his ability to stand in the pocket in the face of pressure and deliver accurate passes and avoided any costly mistakes. Knapp also ran the ball ten times, mostly when the Vikings went to five wide receivers, and churned up 39 yards and his third score of the game.

Now, with only one home game left and a crosstown trip still on their schedule, the Vikings aspire to control their own destiny as it relates to postseason aspirations.

A win against either Del Campo this week, or Roseville next, or both, would make an 11th week a probability. 

“Those are two good football teams, they’ve always been good,” Gagain exclaimed. “But we can beat those teams. We’re a good football team. If we play our brand of football and do our thing, we’re going to be in the playoffs.”

Roseville narrowly missed the playoffs with a 5-5 record in 2015, but boasts a 7-1 record and multiple wins against the CVC’s elite this year.

Del Campo – a playoff team in 2015 – is 3-5 this season, but will be fighting to maintain its postseason hopes as well. That’s who the Vikings get first. 

Kickoff for Oakmont’s final home game of the regular season against the Cougars is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. this Friday.