By Tommy Cobb
FORT GIBSON – There are two things that haven’t happened very often for the Fort Gibson Tigers – hosting a home playoff game and beating Sallisaw. To accomplish one, the Tigers had to do the latter and they had to do it after spotting Sallisaw a 21-point lead.
Fort Gibson’s Jake Gandara rushed for 397 yards and five touchdowns and sophomore Jordon London intercepted four passes including one in the final minute as the seventh-ranked Tigers defeated Sallisaw, 49-42, Friday night at Leo Donahue Tiger Stadium.
The win broke a seven- game losing streak to the Black Diamonds. Fort Gibson (9-1, 6-1) finishes second in District 4A-4 and will host a first round playoff game for the first time since 1999. Sallisaw (6-4, 4-3) ends up fourth and will play a road first round game ending a streak of 10 straight home first round games.
“This was big for us,” said Fort Gibson coach James Singleton. “We put ourselves in a hole early and had to dig our way out. We had a lot of kids make a lot of big plays.”
Offensively, none were more visible than Gandara’s five scores, three of which came on runs of 73, 50, and 74 yards. But the biggest performance may have come from London, who not only came up with four interceptions on defense, but was forced to step in at quarterback when J. R. Singleton went down with and injury in the second quarter. London filled in for Singleton last week against Stilwell, but this week’s game had more riding on it.
“I think last week was a warm up game for me,” London said. “God knew I was going to be needed this week. I was nervous, but I think playing last week really helped.”
London finished a drive that gave Fort Gibson a 35-28 lead late in the second quarter on a three-yard run by Gandara with 20 seconds left. London then ended any hopes of a Sallisaw score with his second interception.
London’s stats were not particularly stellar offensively, but he was able to make two big pass plays when the Tigers needed one. London hit Ned Adair for 37 yards to set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Gandara to give Fort Gibson a 42-28 lead.
Sallisaw’s Ben Oberste kept the Black Diamonds in the game with 143 yards rushing and 328 yards passing. Oberste hit Derek Harris for a 59-yard scoring strike to cut the lead to 42-35 and later scored on a 6-yard run to make it 49-42.
But it was London who proved to be the hero late in the game. Sallisaw was driving in hopes of sending the game into overtime. The Black Diamonds got as deep as the Tiger 33 when London picked off his fourth pass and returned it 70 yards to the Sallisaw 10 where Fort Gibson was able to run out the clock.
“It just seemed like the balls were coming to me,” London said. “Defensively, we practiced against what they run all week.”
The game was a tale of two quarters in the first half as three Fort Gibson fumbles led to a 21-0 Sallisaw lead.
The Tigers were able to regain their composure and exploded for five second quarter touchdowns as Fort Gibson rushed for 254 yards in the second quarter alone. Fort Gibson finished with 529 yards rushing and 678 total yards.
“The offensive line took over in the second quarter,” the coach said. “The kids bounced back.”
FORT GIBSON 49, SALLISAW 42
Score by quarters
Sallisaw 21 7 7 7–42
Fort Gibson 0 35 14 0–49
SHS – Ben Oberste 33 run (Sinue Rodriguez kick) 9:09
SHS – Oberste 2 run (Rodriquez kick) 8:22
SHS – Rodriquez 17 pass from Oberste (Rodriguez kick) 3:26
FGHS – Jake Gandara 50 run (Daniel Mielnik kick) 11:43
FGHS – Gandara 73 run (Mielnik kick) 9:37
FGHS – Tristan Johnson 10 run (Mielnik kick) 5:54
FGHS – J. R. Singleton 1 run (Mielnik kick) 3:53
SHS – Oberste 62 run (Rodriguez kick) 3:34
FGHS – Gandara 3 run (Mielnik kick) 0:20
FGHS – Gandara 9 run (Mielnik kick) 6:21
SHS – Derek Harris 59 pass from Oberste (Rodriguez kick) 4:37
FGHS – Gandara 74 run (Mielnik kick) 3:30
SHS – Oberste 6 run (Rodriguez kick) 6:52
First Downs 20 24
Rushes-Yards 22-171 53-529
Passing yards 328 149
Passes (CAI) 22-39-4 5-15-0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 4-3
Punts-avg 3-40 2-31
Penalties-yds 6-43 9-78
Rushing – SHS, Ben Oberste 16-143; FGHS, Jake Gandara 31-397.
Passing – SHS, Oberste 22-39-4 328; FGHS, J. R. Singleton 3-8-0 82.
Receiving – SHS, Derek Harris 4-75; FGHS, Ned Adair 3-87.