MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

November 1, 2013

East Central rallies past Tahlequah

TULSA-  It was almost the Wright night for the Tahlequah Tigers to pull an upset.

But in the end a fourth-and-inches rushing attempt was an eyelash short for Tahlequah and East Central kept their playoffs alive as they squeaked out a 28-27 District 5A-4 victory at the Eastside Sports Complex.

Senior running  back Colton Wright took charge of the Tiger offense in the latter stages of the game in an attempt to pull off the upset as he helped Tahlequah move from their own 29-yard line, after a holding penalty took away a long kickoff return by Brandon Conrad. Wright, who carried 10 times for 73 yards including a 27-yard scamper on the last series, helped the Tigers move to the East Central 19 with  less than two minutes to play.

Wright took it to the 10 in two rushes. With a yard to go for first down, Wright was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by the Cardinals on two attempts with a measurement needed on fourth down to settle it.

The last-ditch effort brought an end to a valiant effort by the Tigers, who led most of the game. Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert was pleased with the Tiger offensive effort although disappointed with the loss.

“Our rushing game has worked well all year and we thought we would be able to run against them,” said Gilbert.

Did the head coach give any thought to trying a field goal on fourth-and-one at the end instead of running the ball?

“I didn’t, not really,” said Gilbert. “We had missed two extra points, and I’m not putting the blame on anyone, so I had to go with those guys that had been going up and down the field and put my trust in those guys.”

The two teams exchanged punts for most of the first quarter with a 45 yard punt by David Dick pinning the Cardinals at their own 1. On second down, East Central quarterback DC Pitts, starting in place of Trevon Cherry, tried to throw a bubble screen. But Tiger linebacker Kyle Lucas stepped in front of the receiver at the 4 and took it for a pick six. Bryce Patrick’s extra point made it 7-0 Tigers with just over a minute to play in the quarter.

Following another three and out by East Central, Dick and Conrad drove Tahlequah 73 yards in seven plays with Conrad going the final 10 yards for the score. The extra point was no good and the Tigers were up 13-0 early in the second quarter.

Cherry returned for the next possession and on three plays took East Central 74 yards with the score coming on a 48-yard pass to Quantel Givens, closing the gap to 13-7.

The teams traded punts and the Tigers ate up the clock going 78 yards in 10 plays with halfback Reese Davis throwing for an eight yard score to Wyatt Jones with just fifteen seconds left in the half. A two point conversion gave Tahlequah a 21-7 lead going into the locker room.

Cherry brought the Cardinals out charging in the third quarter as they took the opening kickoff and marched 57 yards in 10 plays, scoring a 13-yard shovel pass from Cherry to Walker to cut the Tiger lead to 21-14.

Following a Tiger three-and-out, East Central again moved down the field 51 yards in eight plays with Cherry hitting Pitts on an eight yard strike for the score. The extra point made it 21-21 late in the third quarter.

Tahlequah took the lead back midway through the fourth quarter on a 55-yard drive highlighted by a throw-back pass from Conrad to Dick for 27 yards, then Dick found Will Carlile in the corner of the end zone for a 28-yard score. But Patrick’s extra point was no good, which proved very big.

The Cardinals took the ensuing kickoff from their own 36 and the Tiger defense again could not stop Cherry and company as they moved down the field with Cherry getting the final four yards. The extra point gave East Central a one-point edge with 3:52 to play before the Tigers last-ditch drive down the field.

 Tahlequah will close out its season next Friday night as they host Collinsville while the Cardinals will have a key matchup against district leader Pryor.

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