By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
A day after his team’s 42-41 first District 3A-7 loss to Locust Grove, Hillldale coach Chad Kirkhart was still unsettled about the game’s officiating, and said he would let his feelings be known in his grades on the crew which he thought showed a pattern of calls that were consistently unfavorable to his squad.
Hilldale was flagged six times for 75 yards. Locust Grove had just two penalties all night.
Some of those flags the Hornets were able to overcome. Two blocking in the back calls on the same drive wiped out a Bradley Campbell kickoff return for a score and a 69-yard run by quarterback Chandler Puckett for six. The drive would end up being a 79-yard TD drive capped on a Seth Reheard 1-yard run.
But another, this time a non-flag call, cost Hilldale points. Puckett hit Campbell on what appeared to be – at least from Kirkhart’s view and from the reaction much of the Hilldale side of the field – an in-bounds reception and a 33-yard TD play. Officials ruled him out of bounds and later in the drive, Seth Reheard fumbled the ball at the Locust Grove 28.
“We’ve seen it on video and he had plants two feet down and took two more little steps before going out. If we get that, there’s no fumble and we’re up two touchdowns,” Kirkhart said.
Another play was when Jake Leybas came up from a pile holding what Kirkhart believed was a fumble in the third quarter. “They not only didn’t call the fumble but Leybas draws a personal foul for holding the ball in the air,” Kirkhart said. “They do the same thing on a fumble they got and nothing happens.”
Kirkhart said some of his coaches were telling him their players would ask an official to “slide over” from where they were lined up so as to not be an obstacle between them and the play.
“They said they were told ‘no, you play around me,’” he said. “We’ve seen on film (Locust Grove defendes). tackling our linebackers, holding our linebackers. They never called it. Our kids wold say something and one guy’s response was ‘quit your whining’” and again this is stuff our kids were telling some of my coaches.”
On the pass ruled incomplete to Campbell, the senior receiver walked back up field with the ball as the official trailing him near the goal line asked for it. Campbell kept walking with the football then threw it errant in the direction of the official. Ironically, no personal foul or delay of game was called there, when that kind of call has been known to have been made.
“At that point, I mean, if there’s one called it’s the frustration of the player showing and after a while of getting what we did, it not only sets in on coaches but everyone.”
The outcome puts Locust Grove in the driver’s seat in 3A-7, needing only to beat Lincoln Christian a week from Friday to nail down the tiebreaker against the three closest teams to them. They beat Sequoyah earlier 38-34 to begin district.
Hilldale (5-2, 3-1) still has Sequoyah left in Week 9 and that would appear to at this point set up as a battle for a first-round home game – unless Lincoln beats Locust Grove and creates the potential for a three-way tie for the title.
Sequoyah has one district loss and has Jay, Hilldale and Lincoln Christian left to play.
The opponents for 3A-7 became a little less clear Friday with Stigler’s 22-15 against previously unbeaten Checotah creates a three-team race for the top spot in 3A-8.
In 4A-4, Poteau, which handed Fort Gibson its first district loss last week, lost to Cascia Hall 26-15 on Thursday, creating a situation where Fort Gibson can climb back into the title picture by winning at Cascia Hall next week.
In 4A-3, Wagoner can clinch the district title with a win against Cleveland this coming week.
In 6A-2, Muskogee’s chances for climbing into the playoff picture took a hit in a loss against Sapulpa on Thursday. The Roughers could conceivably figure in with four district losses (they have three heading into next week’s game at Jenks) but the key would be a winning all their remaining games after next week including a week 10 game against Bixby and hope for help.