By Tommy Cobb
CHECOTAH – Brandon Turley spent six seasons as head coach of the Checotah Wildcats, but he was on the other side of the field on Friday night as Henryetta’s coach. His former team had mixed emotions.
Checotah’s Caleb Knight threw for 190 yards and a touchdown and ran for three more as the Wildcats shrugged off a sluggish start to defeat the Knights, 33-26, at Ogle Field.
“This was a real emotional game for us,” Checotah coach Chad Hendricks said. “We came out a little flat. I think the kids let the emotions of Coach Turley coming back get to them early.”
Checotah (3-0) suffered from a lack of a running game and a failed to take advantage of field position in the first half.
Henryetta (1-2) held the Wildcats to 16 yards rushing. Checotah also failed to score after moving to the Knight 11 yard line because of a missed field goal and 18 after being stopped on downs.
Meanwhile, the Knights overcame two turnovers and used a punishing ground attack led by Garrett Flanary, who had 105 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Knight was responsible for most of Checotah’s offense as he threw for 157 yards in the first two quarters. Knight ran for two scores and his 29-yard strike to Jimmy Eddy gave Checotah a 21-14 lead with 2:51 remaining.
But Henryetta quickly moved down field on its ensuing drive.
The Knights converted two fourth downs on the drive and got a second chance when a pass interference call on the final play of the half gave them one untimed play. The result was a tipped pass that found the hands of Devin Longan to cut Checotah’s lead to 21-20.
Henryetta came out in the second half just as they had finished the first and drove 55 yards to take a 26-21 lead on a 10-yard run by Kiley Johnson.
“We challenged our guys to take control on both sides of the line,” Hendricks said. “We decided to just go with our basic defense and line up and see how tough we were.”
After that first drive, Checotah’s defense stiffened. The Wildcats began to shut down the Knight running game and put pressure on the quarterback.
Checotah’s offense began to move the ball on the ground as Knight would finish with 85 yards rushing while Jerry Casey added another 54. Casey’s 14-yard run in the third gave the Wildcats a 27-26 lead. Knight then scored on a 20-yard run with 8:09 remaining to make it 33-26.
“We just had to be patient with our running game,” Hendricks said. “Teams are going to load up against us. We were able to loosen them up with the pass and then we settled in and started running the ball in the second half.”
Henryetta still had one last shot as they drove the ball from their own 37 to the Checotah 27. But on fourth and nine, Checotah’s Keaton Donathan finally got to Johnson for a sack that ended the drive.
CHECOTAH 33, HENRYETTA 26
Henryetta 0 20 6 0 – 26
Checotah 8 13 6 6 – 33
CHS – Caleb Knight 1 run (Knight pass to Cody Cox) 0:41
HHS – Garrett Flanary 11 run (Kiley Johnson pass to Heath Consure) 9:45
CHS – Knight 4 run (run fail) 8:42
HHS – Flanary 2 run (kick fail) 4:20
CHS – Jimmy Eddy 29 pass from Knight (Jacob Campbell kick) 2:51
HHS – Devin Longan 10 pass from Johnson (kick fail) 0:00
HHS – Johnson 10 run (run fail) 7:40
CHS – Jerry Casey 14 run (kick fail) 5:25
CHS – Knight 20 run (kick fail) 8:09
Rushing – HHS, Garrett Flanary 22-135; CHS, Caleb Knight 13-85.
Passing – HHS, Kiley Johnson 18-29-1 133; CHS, Knight 13-21-1 190.
Receiving – HHS, Devin Longan 7-67; CHS, Cody Cox 7-81.