By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was quoted once as saying everyone has a game plan until you hit them in the mouth.
Last Thursday, Class 4A No. 1-ranked Cascia Hall delivered a shot to the chops of the Fort Gibson Tigers from which the Tigers never recovered, handing them their first loss of the season.
“Cascia Hall is not the number one team in the state for nothing,” said Tigers coach James Singleton. “However, we did some uncharacteristic things, not so much because (Cascia Hall) is a good team, but we did some things like dropping punts and kickoffs, false starts in key situations, things of that nature.”
One of those key situations came late in the first quarter. Down 7-0, the Tigers (7-1, 4-1 District 4A-4) were driving for a game-tying touchdown when a cluster bomb of errors began. First was a miscommunication between Singleton and an official resulting in what the official thought was a timeout being called by the Fort Gibson coach. On the ensuing play, Fort Gibson was called for a false start, forcing a 23-yard field goal attempt by Daniel Mielnik which he pushed to the right.
The Commandos made the Tigers — No. 7 in Class 4A — pay by driving the length of the field for its second touchdown of the night on its way to a 35-7 triumph over the Tigers.
“I talked to the guys on Friday and they were down, thinking the season was over,” Singleton said. “I talked with them again Sunday and they weren’t disappointed with the loss as much as how they played.”
The most lingering factor from the contest is injuries. Quarterback J.R. Singleton, the coach’s son, left the game in the third quarter after a late hit resulted in a slight hip pointer. Additionally, wide receiver/defensive back Zach Drain could be out for awhile after suffering a dislocated shoulder.
“J.R. hasn’t practiced yet this week and is day-to-day,” the coach said. “Zach’s a little more serious. He’s having an MRI (Tuesday) and we’ll know more there but it’s not looking good.”
Singleton was very pleased with his squad’s response once they got off the mat and back on the practice field. He told the team that it’s back to the basics as they gear up to face Stilwell on the road this week, then close against Sallisaw. They need wins in both to assure themselves of a home playoff game in the first round as the district runner-up.
“I told the other coaches we need to clean up some things that weren’t quite as mental as we thought they were,” he said. “This is a get-better week for us, to clean things up and head to Adair County.”