Two area advance to play for the gold ball while two bid adieus to the 2023 football season. Let’s recap an exciting round of semifinal and quarterfinals games.
By far the most on-the-edge-of-your-seat game was in Ponca City where the Muskogee Roughers survived two last minute scares to come from behind to beat top ranked Deer Creek 36-35. After both teams scored but had point after kicks blocked on their first possession, Muskogee committed the first of two turnovers as a fumble gave the Antlers the ball at the Rougher 40 which they converted to a field goal to take the lead. Following a Muskogee punt, Deer Creek went on a 64-yard,10 play drive to score and take a 16-6 lead. Muskogee would answer with a 62-yard drive of their own to cut the Antlers lead to three once again. The Roughers had a chance to take the lead later in the second quarter but at the Antler 4-yard line, quarterback Jamarian Ficklin was ruled to have fumbled the ball on a very controversial call after which Deer Creek would drive 96 yards in seven plays to score and make it 23-13 at intermission. Muskogee took the third quarter kickoff and drove 76 yards for a score to again make it a three-point game and following an Antler three-and-out, drove 81 yards with most of that coming on a 56-yard pass from Ficklin to Jayden Swanson and took the lead for the first time at 27-23. The teams exchanged touchdowns but the Roughers, for the second time in the game, blocked the Antlers point after kick which would prove to be big. making it 29-27 Deer Creek as the game moved into the fourth quarter. Following the kick, Muskogee moved 74 yards in four plays to score with the big play being a 56-yard end-around by Kayden McGee to put the Roughers up 34-29. Then Muskogee’s defense rose to the occasion getting an interception by Ondraye Beasley to stop the Antlers next drive and Vernon Pepiakitah corralling Antlers quarterback Grady Adamson for a safety on Deer Creek’s next possession to make it 36-29. But the true excitement of the game was just getting started. With just over three minutes left in the game Deer Creek had one more chance and drove 48 yards in nine plays to make it 36-35 with 25 seconds to play. Antlers coach Wade Standley appeared content to kick the extra point and go to overtime but then Muskogee was penalized twice for offsides moving the ball to within INCHES of the goal line and Standley decided to go for the two-point conversion. Adamson took the snap, took a step back to head to the outside but Anthony Watson, Tim Moore and Pepiakitah knifed in and took him down. The officials converged, talked it over and ruled Adamson short by INCHES. But the excitement isn’t over yet. With the whole stadium knowing an on-sides kick was coming, the kick was executed perfectly, took a big hop and Deer Creek recovered. But the official standing right on the 50-yard line ruled that the Antlers had touched the ball INCHES before it reached the 50 and Muskogee dodged the bullet for the win to move on the championship game this Friday in a rematch with Stillwater, which had to survive at last ditch effort by Choctaw to win their game, at the University of Central Oklahoma at 1 PM.
“We didn’t play well mentally or as coaches. We had too many penalties (14), dropped passes and we had more turnovers than they did which usually means the other guys win,” said Rougher head coach Travis Hill. “But physically we played really well. We blocked and tackled well and played hard and our guys made the big plays when it counted on both sides of the ball.”
Pepiakitah had a huge game defensively with 11 tackles including a QB sack for a safety plus 3 pass deflections while Ficklin had 425 yards of offense and was part of all five touchdowns to pace the Roughers. We’ll delve more into Friday’s rematch with the Pioneers later this week in our Games of the Week column.
Two of our area teams were involved in the Class 4A semifinals. The top ranked Poteau Pirates were upset 26-14 by the Blanchard Lions who will meet Wagoner in the title game Thursday night in Edmond. The Bulldogs, now a perfect 13-0, handily beat Ada in the other semifinal 42-7. Junior quarterback Kale Charboneau was a part of three touchdowns with 116 yards on the ground and another 177 through the air for the Bulldogs who won their 21st straight game.
“There were so many great performances in the game,” said Wagoner head coach Dale Condict. “But I want to give a special shout out to wide receiver Witt Edwards who broke Gabe Rodriguez’s single season receiving record of 63 receptions (Edwards had five grabs for 116 yards and a touchdown). He also had a big fumble recovery and a huge punt that pinned Ada deep.”
Driven by their motto “B2B – Back to Business” the Bulldogs face the Lions Thursday night at 7 PM for the 4A title. Wagoner will be trying to make it back-to-back championships while Blanchard will be looking for its first title since 2012. The two teams met in the state semifinals in 2017 with Blanchard winning 23-14.
The other area team that will bow out is the Vian Wolverines who were overpowered by the top ranked Washington Warriors for the second time this season, this time by a final count of 47-14 in the Class 2A quarterfinals.
“Although the score looked out of hand, we actually played pretty well but Washington is a special team,” said Vian head coach Gary Willis. “They’re probably the second best 2A team I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching behind the Millwood teams of 2016 and 2017 (which won back-to-back state titles). They’re talented with several guys that will play D-I ball next year and we were just outmatched and out-manned in both of those games.”
And while the Wolverines finish with a misleading 8-5 record having played a killer schedule, they did set themselves up for the future with the blooming of sophomores Maysn Wright at quarterback and Draighton Fletcher at running back. They will be among 10 returners on defense and nine on offense for Vian next year.
“We were hesitant to put the quarterbacking responsibility on a sophomore early on, so we tried different players at quarterback in our early games but by the third or fourth game it became obvious that Masyn was the guy we needed to be snapping the ball to the rest of the season,” said Willis. “He finished the year with 1400 yards rushing and around 900 yards passing. Draighton suffered a severe collarbone break that required surgery at the end of his freshman year so we weren’t sure how he would respond this year, but he also had about 1400 yards rushing. I knew he would eventually be this kind of running back but he just got there faster than I thought he might,” said Willis.
Washington moves on to play Jones Friday in the 2A semifinals at Yukon. But the rest of Class 2A better watch out for these Wolverines come next fall.