By Tommy Cobb
WAGONER – Three numbers defined Friday night’s Class 4A playoff contest between Wagoner and Fort Gibson – 6, 9, and 327.
All favored Wagoner.
Wagoner’s Lawrence Evitt rushed for 327 yards and four touchdowns and the Bulldogs’ defense came up with six Tiger turnovers as Wagoner defeated Fort Gibson, 28-7, at W. L. Odom Stadium.
It was the ninth straight year that No. 2 Wagoner has opened the playoffs with a win. The Bulldogs will host Woodward next Friday in a second-round contest.
“The world is still in order,” said Wagoner coach Dale Condict. “They played us exactly like we thought they would. It wasn’t until we went up 28-7 that I could breathe a little.”
For Fort Gibson it was another close loss to a top-10 team. The Tigers could have taken control of the game early on but turnovers stopped almost certain scoring drives on their first two possessions.
“We had our chances,” said Fort Gibson coach James Singleton. “We work on ball security all the time. We just had some misfortune. In a game like this on a stage like this you can’t do that against a team like Wagoner.”
And then there was the running back that everyone has attempted to shut down this season but no one has had much luck with.
After Wagoner recovered a Fort Gibson fumble at the Bulldog 21, Evitt electrified the home crowd on his fifth rush going 58 yards to give Wagoner a 7-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers were on the verge of tying the game when Wagoner forced a fumble at the 1-yard line. Three plays later it was Evitt again, going 80 yards to make it 14-0 early in the second.
Triston Johnson finished with 192 yards rushing for Fort Gibson rushing for 112 of those in the first half. His punishing rushing attack helped the Tigers take advantage of Wagoner’s only turnover of the game. Johnson rushed for 32 yards on the drive to set up J.R. Singleton’s 34-yard pass to Zach Drain to cut the lead to 14-7 with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter.
“They were hurting us with the run game,” Condict said. “We took some bad angles on some of their runs. But we made adjustments at halftime and I thought our run defense got better as the game went on.”
Fort Gibson rushed for 166 yards in the first half but was limited to just 66 yards in the second half. However, the Tigers started the third quarter by moving the ball into Wagoner territory only to have the drive stalled with a fumble.
Condict said that Evitt had problems with cramps for the first time all year. But, not even that could slow down Wagoner’s star back. Evitt gave Wagoner a 21-7 lead late in the third with a 68-yard rush untouched up the middle.
Perhaps any hope of a Fort Gibson rally was dashed early in the fourth. Singleton hit Hayden Perry for a 24-yard pass completion to ignite a drive that wound up as a fourth-and-two at the Wagoner 7. The Bulldog defense flexed its muscle and stopped Fort Gibson a yard short.
A. J. Freeth, who recovered an onside kick in the first half, came up with a fumble recovery at the Fort Gibson 12 to set up Wagoner’s final drive. Evitt finished his night with a 2-yard run that closed the scoring at 28-7.
“We never question our kids effort,” Singleton said. “We fought the entire game. I just hope our younger players can learn from this experience.”
WAGONER 28, FORT GIBSON 7
Fort Gibson 0 7 0 0–7
Wagoner 7 7 7 7–28
WHS – Lawrence Evitt 58 run (Tanner Rolen kick) 4:42
WHS – Evitt 80 run (Rolen kick) 9:45
FGHS – Zach Drain 34 pass from J.R. Singleton (Daniel Mielnik kick) 1:47
WHS – Evitt 68 run (Rolen kick) 4:14
WHS – Evitt 2 run (Rolen kick) 1:26
First downs 18 17
Rushes-yards 37-212 44-403
Passing yards 120 15
Passes 9-15-1 2-7-1
Fumbles-Lost 7-5 0-0
Punts-average 1-34 2-31
Penalties-yards 7-65 9-94
Rushing – FGHS, Tristan Johnson 21-192; WHS, Lawrence Evitt 22-327.
Passing – FGHS, J. R. Singleton 9-15-1 120; WHS, Jake Woodson 2-7-1 15.
Receiving – FGHS, Zach Peterson 4-44; WHS, Evitt 1-11.