By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Josh Blankenship quickly stated he didn’t want to talk about the penalties, of which there were a few.
And who could blame him. There was a win to talk about, as his team starting the second half of the season Friday night with a 39-8 decision over the Edison Eagles on Muscogee (Creek) Nation Field at Indian Bowl.
It might have not been pretty at times, but for once this season, other than seeing improvements on film, there was an improvement in the win column.
He’ll see on film how the offense clicked — quarterback Quintahj Cherry completed his first five passes, all in the first two drives of the game to get a 14-0 lead. For the night, Cherry was 10-of-14 for 196 yards and three TDs, with Anthony King hauling in six catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns with a big hand in setting up another.
The running game and thus, the blocking, jelled like it hasn’t so far. Tyriq Beasley had 84 yards on 8 carries, including a 23-yard touchdown run that put Muskogee up 33-0 with 11:37 to go in the game. Jacouri Freeman had most of his 67 yards on one of his seven carries, a 43-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. That gave MHS a 27-0 lead they took into the break.
Special teams set that up as Darius Lewis recovered an onside kick one play before Freeman’s burst.
Defensively, the Roughers worked a shutout for 3 1/2 quarters but also came up with four turnovers — Sammy Richardson and Luke Leatherman recovered fumbles and Tavian Davis’ pick-six came on a 26-yard return that made it a 21-0 game with 8:08 to go until halftime. Keshon Burns came up with the second pick with under a minute remaining.
“I read the quarterback’s eyes the whole time. I slowed down a little bit just to see if he would run or pass it. As soon as he pulled his arm back to throw it, I knew it was mine to catch and I told myself ‘this is your chance to shine’ and I took it to the house,” Davis said.
King had a 35-yard reception on the third play of the Roughers’ first drive off a bubble screen. He went to the other side of the line and took in the same thing on a 7-yarder for the score. On the next drive, Cherry hit Jy’Reece Vanhook for 32 yards, went to King on another screen for 24 and then a toss to the corner to Bryson Bell for 14 yards, making it a two-touchdown advantage with 3:48 to go in the first.
King’s other TD reception went for 37 yards on a catch across the middle of the Eagles’ defense to end the scoring.
“Keep it coming when it works that good,” King said.
Muskogee (1-5, 1-2 in District 6A-2) had 364 yards of offense. Edison (4-2, 1-2) had 273.
“Maybe it’s a confidence boost, maybe it’s a little more incentive to go back to work. But all year our goal is to get in the playoffs,” Blankenship said. “I know I’m a broken record on this but we have gotten better in every phase and tonight was the first night we’ played more of a complete game.”
The playoff message has gotten through to his team and Edison, coming off its first 6A-2 win in the last two seasons against Putnam City and whose only loss was to Jenks, was a jump-start in that direction.
There is plenty still to fix. Those penalties were part of the overall culture of this game. Edison was flagged 14 times for 150 yards, Muskogee 12 for 136.
Chase Soper missed on field goal attempts of 45 and 38 yards, the latter after a 6-yard TD run by Cherry on fourth-and-2 was wiped out by a block below the waist.
“They’re a lot better than they were last year and I’ve said we’re better than last year, but so is every other team in our district,” Blankenship said. “We’ll go evaluate and correct mistakes but our deal now is to win the next one. We’ll celebrate some but now our goal is to win the next one.”
That comes next Thursday at Sapulpa.
“Winning this, we have enough confidence to go to Sapulpa and win another game,” Davis said. “This is the first of our playoffs to get to the playoffs. Now it’s time to advance to the second round.”
MUSKOGEE 39, EDISON 8
Edison 0 0 0 8—8
Muskogee 14 13 0 12 —39
MUS: Anthony King 7 pass from Quintahj Cherry (Chase Soper kick), 9:26.
MUS: Bryson Bell 14 pass from Cherry (Soper kick), 3:48.
MUS: Tavian Davis 26 interception return (Soper kick), 8:08.
MUS: Jacouri Freeman 43 run (kick failed), 7:52.
MUS: Tyriq Beasley 23 run (kick failed), 11:37.
EDI: Akylen Mayfield 1 run (Malachi Barnett pass from Mayfield), 6:35.
MUS: King 37 pass from Cherry (kick failed), 3:33.
First Downs 15 14
Rushes-Yards 49-172 28-168
Passing Yards 101 196
Passes C-A-I 5-15-2 10-14-0
Punts-Avg. 1-35 2-29.5
Fumbles-Lost 5-3 0-0
Penalties-Yards 14-150 12-136
Rushing: Edi, Michael Austin 16-75. Mus, Tyr. Beasley 8-84 (TD), Freeman 7-67 (TD). Passing: Edi, Marcus Mays 3-6-59-1. Mus, Cherry 10-14-196-0 (3 TD). Receiving: Edi, Tion Grant, 2-47. Mus, King 6-124 (2 TD).