By Jimmy Stinson
CHECOTAH – The battle for the District 3A-8 title started with the Checotah Wildcats relying on the fleet feet of Caleb Knight, DeShay Bear, and Jerry Casey and a stingy defense, building a 30-14 halftime lead and hanging on to take a 43-28 victory over the Spiro Bulldogs at Ogle Field on Friday night.
The win and margin of victory clinched the District 3A-8 title for the Wildcats, who needed the full 15-point maximum point differential to hold off Stigler, which beat Idabel 55-7.
The Wildcats’ offense racked up 184 yards rushing in the first half, with Knight accounting for 87 of those and a touchdown while Bear added two scores on 47 yards and Casey accounted for 44 yards. Through the air, Knight had 153 yards on five completions, the longest being 77 yards to Colton Stephens.
“Spiro is a good team and we knew that coming in,” said Checotah coach Chad Hendricks. “They made some adjustments at halftime but we were able to hang on.”
Hendricks also had high praise for his senior quarterback. “I have been saying it all year long, he’s a great player. We just put the ball in his hands and he did well,” he said.
The senior quarterback dominated the rushing attack for the Wildcats, racking up a game high 242 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. Through the air, Knight’s numbers were not quite as impressive, going 6-of-12 for 157 yards, a touchdown, but gave up one interception. On Senior Night, Knight was thrilled with the team’s championship and the play of his teammates.
“This is great. The odds were kinda stacked against us, but my teammates played hard and never quit. My line did a great job tonight just like all year. The whole team, I mean, it’s like great, and being Senior Night, everything worked out perfect,” said Knight after the game.
The first half was all Checotah , but the adjustments made by Spiro put a scare in the hometown crowd.
Leading 30-14 at the half, the Wildcats added a quick score on the first possession of the second half and appeared to be in total control. The Bulldogs answered back with a 37-yard toss from McKinley Whitfield to Malik Walker and an 88-yard dash by Whitfield to cut the Wildcat lead to 36-28.
Checotah’s defense did not give up another score, holding Spiro to 58 total yards in the fourth quarter. With the exception of Spiro’s two long scores, their offense only had nine total first downs, five in the second half. Without Whitfield’s 88 yard run, the Wildcats only allowed 24 rushing yards in the second half.
Bear finished the night with 55 yards rushing on 11 carries and three touchdowns, while Casey added 48 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Drew Dan was the leading receiver for the Wildcats, pulling in two catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Checotah will host a first round playoff game next week against Jay.