, Muskogee, OK


October 23, 2011

Former Hornets and Tigers strap it up once more

A line from a current country-western song says “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

That could have been the theme for a group of “veteran” players from Hilldale and Fort Gibson who donned the uniforms one more time for the alumni version of the Battle for the Rock before several hundred fans at Leo Donahue Tiger Stadium in Fort Gibson on Sunday.

And in a game dominated by the defenses, the Tiger alums outlasted the Hornet alums by a score of 9-8. The game was a fund raising effort for the football programs of the two schools.

As might be expected in a game with little practice time, and former players of different eras taking part, turnovers and penalties prevailed.

The first major turnover came late in the first quarter. Hilldale had driven from their own 30 yard line to the Fort Gibson 24 under the direction of quarterback Brian Dornan, class of 1997. On second down, Dornan handed to running back Joseph Elrod. The ball was knocked loose and Tiger alum Corey Baker scooped up the ball and scampered 73 yards for the score. PJ Guinn, class of 1999 and quarterback for the Tiger alums, kicked the extra point and it was 7-0 with 3:54 left in the first quarter.

“I just saw the ball rolling around and just scooped it up and took off and hoped I could out run everybody,” said Baker, a 2006 Tiger grad.  

The Tigers scored what proved to be the winning points a couple of minutes later. Hilldale got a good return on the ensuing kickoff by Corey Keifer to the 40 yards line. Two plays from scrimmage moved the ball to midfield. But a block in the back and a dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the next play moved the Hornet old-timers all the way back to their own 20 yard line. A sack by Wesley Hardy put the ball back at the 15. And on fourth down, the snap back to punter Tyson Walker sailed over his head and out of the end zone for a safety to make it 9-0.

Hilldale had three scoring opportunities in the third quarter from the Fort Gibson 35, 10 and 27 yard lines. But each time the Fort Gibson defense rose to the occasion and turned the Hornets back.

With time winding down, the Hornets finally got on the board on a 54-yard pass from Dornan to Clint Caster, who made the catch despite a pass interference call against the Tigers. Hilldale converted the two point conversion on a run by 1996 alum Eddie Walker to make it 9-8 with 2:08 to play.

“I just threw it out there and he (Caster) did all the work,” said Dornan, who works for the McIntosh County sheriff’s department.

After the Hornets were successful on an onside kick, Dornan was intercepted by FGHS 2007 grad Samuel Byrd. The Tigers went three and out and Hilldale got the ball back one last time at the Tiger 31 yard line with 26 seconds to play. But Doug Ragsdale ended the threat with another interception for the Tigers.

“This is our ninth game in Oklahoma over the past several weekends,” said Tim Bishop, regional director for Alumni USA and organizer of the event. “We’ll definitely be coming back and we’ll just have to see what our return schedule might be.”

And from players on both sides, a good time was had by all.

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