By Buck Ringgold
Courtesy SW Times Record
SALLISAW - Turnovers were indeed the difference in Sallisaw's 4A-4 game against Fort Gibson on Friday.
The Black Diamonds forced six turnovers, scoring touchdowns on five of those, including three in the third quarter as they broke open a close game in going on to a 47-28 win.
"That was the best defensive game of this year, and that was the best defensive effort we've had in the last two years," Sallisaw coach Craig Benson said.
"They bent at times but they didn't break at all and we came up with important plays. ... We had several players that played really, really good."
It was Sallisaw's sixth straight win as the Diamonds finished in a three-way tie for first place in the district with Poteau and Cascia Hall.
However, due to the point system, Sallisaw (8-2, 6-1) wound up with the No. 3 seed, forcing the Diamonds to travel for the first round of the 4A playoffs next week.
Sallisaw will play at Oologah in the opening round next Friday. The Diamonds' win also means Poteau winds up with the No. 1 seed, which allows the Pirates to play at home for the first two rounds of the postseason.
In a back-and-forth first half, the Diamonds scored on a late drive to take a 24-21 lead at halftime. Their defense dictated the tempo in the third quarter.
On the Tigers' opening series of the second half, Sallisaw's Chase Long picked off a pass at his own 38. Six plays later, from the Tiger 23, quarterback Quint Scoufos threw a short sideline pattern to Sinue Rodriguez, who eluded a pair of tacklers and reached the end zone for the TD. Rodriguez, Sallisaw's regular kicker, added the PAT to put the Diamonds up by 10, 31-21.
Sallisaw then scored two TDs in an 18-second span within the final minute of the third quarter. Jadon Davenport, who recovered a fumble on defense, finished off an
eight-play drive by catching a short pass from Scoufos and going in from 5 yards out. The PAT was blocked, keeping Sallisaw's lead at 16, 37-21.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Sallisaw got another turnover when Chance Blount intercepted a pass, returning it to the Tiger 21. Tailback Cale Wilson
finished off those 21 yards with a TD run one play after the interception and Rodriguez's PAT gave Sallisaw a commanding 44-21 advantage with eight seconds left in the third.
After the Tigers (6-4, 4-3) scored on a TD pass early in the fourth, Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the Fort Gibson 33, setting up Rodriguez kicking
a 33-yard field goal, his second on the night, for the final margin with more than seven minutes left.
"Sallisaw's a solid football team offensively and you can't give them a short field like that and we gift-wrapped them a lot of points unfortunately," Fort Gibson coach James Singleton said. "But our kids battled, and it's like I told our guys, there was no lack of effort on the field, the kids played hard, we just had some mental busts in key, key situations and that was the difference in the ballgame."
The Tigers got the No. 4 seed out of 4A-4 and will have to play at Wagoner in the opening round of the 4A playoffs next Friday.
Sallisaw 47, Fort Gibson 28
Fort Gibson 7 14 0 7 - 28
Sallisaw 17 7 20 3 - 47
Sall - Brown 3 run (Rodriguez kick), 9:57
Ft. G - Kirkhart 95 kickoff return (Mielnik kick), 9:41
Sall - Rodriguez 42 field goal, 6:52
Sall - Brown 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 2:25
Ft. G - Singleton 1 run (Mielnik kick), 4:57
Ft. G - Kirkhart 65 punt return (Mielnik kick), 3:01
Sall - Scoufos 8 run (Rodriguez kick), :35
Sall - Rodriguez 23 pass from Scoufos (Rodriguez kick), 6:40
Sall - Davenport 5 pass from Scoufos (kick blocked), :26
Sall - Wilson 21 run (Rodriguez kick), :08
Ft. G - Rumbley 39 pass from Singleton (Mielnik kick), 11:17
Sall - Rodriguez 33 field goal, 7:13
Ft. G Sall
First downs 15 22
Rushes-yards 28-143 49-195
Passing 218 110
Comp-Att-Int 13-30-3 12-18-0
Punts 0-0 2-41
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 2-0
Penalties-Yards 6-45 4-25
RUSHING - Fort Gibson, Johnson 6-85, Singleton 13-30, Walker 5-17, Richey 2-12, Lindley 1-0, Team 1-(minus-1); Sallisaw, Wilson 21-131, Davenport 16-34,
Scoufos 5-24, Brown 5-8, Team 2-(minus-2).
PASSING - Fort Gibson, Singleton 13-29-3 218, London 0-1-0; Sallisaw, Scoufos 12-18-0 110.
RECEIVING - Fort Gibson, Rumbley 4-111, London 4-25, Peterson 3-53, Drain 1-17, Perry 1-12; Sallisaw, Davenport 5-40, Rodriguez 3-35, Sparks 2-24, Harris 2-11.