MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 14, 2013

Owasso pulls away to down Muskogee

By Nick Hampton

— OWASSO —Frustration was the operative word for describing the night for the Muskogee Roughers at Owasso Stadium on Friday night.

It was another frustrating night for the Rougher offense, and a great effort beset by penalties that frustrated the defense as Muskogee fell to the 6A No. 8 Owasso Rams 36-7.

“I was extremely proud of our defense tonight,” said a beleaguered Muskogee coach Josh Blankenship. “Going into halftime just two scores down against a team the caliber of Owasso you just can’t ask a defense to do much more than that..”

For the offense it was a replay of last week’s season opening loss to Sand Springs. Muskogee (0-2) didn’t cross midfield until late in the game and could not find any consistency running or passing. Quarterback Quintahj Cherry provided most of the offense with his passing arm going 17-of-25 for 100 yards in a ball-control offense. The ground game faltered with 23 rushing plays, netting only 54 yards.

The Rams (1-1) took the opening kickoff and went 63 yards in 8 plays with the brother combo of quarterback Gabe Neph and receiver Cole Neph hooking up on a 7-yard score with 9:21 to play in the opening quarter.

The Roughers’ first possession ended in disaster as punter Chase Soper saw the snap sail over his head. He retrieved it at the 3 and kicked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety to make it a 9-0 game.

The Rams dominated time of possession in the first half but managed only a pair of field goals as the Muskogee defense bent but didn’t break. It was 15-0 at the break.

Another sore point for the Roughers was in the penalty department. Muskogee was flagged 16 times for 165 yards and had a player ejected from the game.

Blankenship had few words to say but it was easy to read between the lines.

“I’m not allowed to comment on the officiating,” he said. “We’ll address some of the things we need to but other than that I can’t comment on the officiating.”

The second half saw more frustration for the MHS offense as it tried to make headway against the Owasso defensive front that had a 20-pound per-man advantage.

“We couldn’t get anything going on the offensive side of the ball,” said Blankenship. “We couldn’t protect, we couldn’t run-block and it really limits your play-calling when you’re in that situation.”

The Neph brothers combined again on a 7-yard pass early in the third quarter to make it 22-0. Later in the third, Gabe Neph found Drew Wise on a 42-yard touchdown strike to make it 29-0. An 87-yard drive halfway through the fourth quarter capped the Owasso scoring.

With just over 2 minutes left, Cherry drove the Roughers 45 yards, hitting tight end Zane Rasmussen on an 18-yard toss on the final play of the game to prevent the shutout.

On the night, Muskogee had just 154 total offensive yards compared to 336 for the Rams.

Despite the loss, Blankenship was optimistic about at least one side of the game.

“They say you see the most improvement in a team between the first and second game and tonight our defense really showed that improvement,” he said. “We just have to find a way to make some impact on offense.”

The Roughers’ home opener is against Fayetteville (Ark.) in a 7 p.m. kickoff next Friday.