By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Sometimes a coach doesn’t have to say much to his team to get things turned around and for Fort Gibson James Singleton, last Friday was a perfect example.
The Tigers trailed the Black Diamonds 21-0 at the end of the first 12 minutes but turned their game around, scoring 35 points to take a 35-28 lead into the locker room on their way to a 49-42 win at Leo Donahue-Tiger Stadium.
“We pulled all the guys over between the quarters and told them to relax,” he said. “I told them ‘Just take a deep breath and go out and play like we know you’re capable of.’ A lot of the problems in that quarter we caused ourselves and Sallisaw took advantage of them.”
Whatever the coach said got through to the players as they cut the deficit to 21-14 within the first 2:30 of the second quarter on runs of 50 and 73 yards by senior Jake Gandara.
“Once we settled down, we played good football,” Singleton said. “For a casual fan, it was quite an exciting game. For a coach, it was an emotional roller-coaster.”
Fort Gibson tacked on two more touchdowns in the next 5:30 minutes to grab a seven-point advantage and Gandara would add a third TD of the quarter on a 3-yard run to help the Tigers regain the lead after Sallisaw had tied the score at 28-28.
“The second quarter was just kind of the opposite of the first,” Singleton said. “We all settled down and everything seemed to steam roll the other way and we put it back on them a little bit.”
Gandara led the Tigers with a school-record 397 yards rushing on 31 carries and five touchdowns but Singleton was quick to point out that this was a team effort.
“The linemen did a great job opening up holes,” he said. “As a unit, they graded out over 90 percent and we haven’t gotten close to that all year. They opened up some gaping holes for Jake.”
Not everything to come out of Friday’s game was positive as the Tigers lost quarterback J.R. Singleton for an indefinite period after he dislocated the elbow of his throwing arm in the second quarter.
Jordon London, who filled in for Singleton against Cascia Hall and Stilwell after the coach’s son suffered a hip pointer against Cascia Hall, took over against Sallisaw and directed the Tigers on their final three scoring drives. He sealed the game on defense with four interceptions, the final one coming in the last minute of the game to seal the win.
“Nothing was broken in J.R.’s arm but it will be immobilized for a week,” the elder Singleton said. “They’re going to do an MRI this week to see if there’s any ligament damage. Jordon came in and completed some big passes in big situations to go along with his defensive play.
“Jordan’s a great backup quarterback to have. He’s also one of our best receivers, so we gain a great backup quarterback but we lose a quality receiver.”