By Eric Shannon
STILWELL – As Fort Gibson coach James Singleton referred to his team’s play from the start – it was gas on the fire. And the fuel was the Tigers, throttling the Stilwell Indians on a cold night, 42-14.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to begin the inferno. After two consecutive penalties for kicking the ball out of bounds, trying to keep it away the Tigers’ Jake Gandara, the Indians finally put it in play and Gandara made them pay, returning the kickoff 78 yards for his first of three scores on the night.
Gandara paced the offense with 278 total yards, 200 of them rushing on 21 carries. He was leaned on for much of the offensive game plan with starting quarterback J.R. Singleton still out with an injury. Jordon London assumed the quarterbacking duties on the night, accumulating 34 yards passing and 29 rushing and three touchdowns.
“We hit them hard and fast tonight,” the coach said. “The offensive line played phenomenally. When Jake doesn’t get touched until he is in the secondary, it’s great line play.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ defense held the Indians in check much of the game, allowing 80 total yards, 20 of those coming with the third-team defense in late in the game, plus forcing four fumbles and one interception..
“We had a huge defensive game tonight and our kids played hard and kept them in check all night,” coach Singleton said. “We rebounded well after last week’s game and came to play tonight. Give a lot of credit for the win to the defense.”
The defense for Fort Gibson (8-1, 5-1 District 4A-4) stood up the Indians (1-5, 1-8 4A-4) on their first possession backing them up into a fourth and 25, forcing a 23-yard punt.
While London struggled though the air, he registered the Tigers’ second touchdown of the game on a 13-yard keeper with 5:23 left in the first quarter for a lead.
London again found paydirt with a 12-yard run with 1:49 left in the opening quarter, capping a six-play drive for a 20-0 lead. Gandara then punched in a one-yard touchdown with 10:31 until halftime.
Stilwell’s Austin Catron found a gap in the Tigers’ kickoff coverage and returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for the Indians' first score of the night.
The Tigers had their next three possessions on the Indians’ side of the field but a fumble, punt and turnover-on-downs ended any scoring opportunities.
Coming out after the half, the Indians looked to have something to prove, taking the second-half kickoff and marching to the Tigers 10-yard line but a turnover on downs gave the ball to Fort Gibson. However, a missed handoff between Gandara and London gave the Indians prime real estate. Two plays later, Mathew Lea snuck in for a score to cut the lead to 27-14 with 6:23 in the third quarter.
But just as the Indians thought they had a slim chance at the upset, Gandara took a handoff at his own 22, sprinted up the middle to the secondary, then cut left, outrunning the remaining Indians for his third score of the night and a 35-14 lead with 5:25 left in the third period.
London finished out the pounding with 4:26 left in the game when he connected with a diving Zach Peterson from 22 yards out for the final points.
“We had a few busts here and there but we played a very solid game,” said the FGHS head coach.
“We kept J.R. out tonight as a precaution. He'll be ready for next Friday night but I was glad to see Jordan play well tonight. Now we focus on Sallisaw and taking care of business next week.”
A win next week would assure the Tigers of a first-round playoff game at home.
FORT GIBSON 42, STILWELL 14
FORT GIBSON 20 7 15 0–42
STILWELL 0 7 7 0–14
FGHS – Jake Gandara 78 kickoff return (Daniel Meilnik kick) 11:46
FGHS- Jordan London 13 run (Meilnik kick) 5:23
FGHS – London 12 run (PAT no good) 1:49
FGHS – Gandara 1 run (Meilnik kick) 10:31
SHS – Austin Catron 70 kickoff return (Jerrell Hawk kick) 10:15
SHS – Mathew Lea 1 run (Hawk kick) 6:23
FGHS – Gandara 78 run (Seth Taylor pass from London) 5:23
FGHS – Zach Peterson 22 pass from London (Meilnik kick) 4:26
First Downs 15 7
Rushes –Yards 45-265 36-73
Passing A-C-I 9-2-0 2-10-1
Passing Yards 34 9
Punts – Avg. 1-50 5-18.2
Penalties-Yards 8-50 8-45
Fumbles – Lost 3-2 4-1
RUSHING -FGHS – Jake Gandara 21-200, Seth Taylor 10-29, Jordon London 5-29; SHS -Jerrell Hawk 20-48
PASSING - FGHS – Jordon London 2-8-0-1-34
RECEIVING - FGHS – Ned Adair 1-12, Zac Peterson 1-22.