With Grove on the comeback and threatening to spoil Tahlequah’s first win of 2012, first-year coach Brad Gilbert knew who to count on.
Mason McMillan delivered, taking the handoff on every play of the Tigers’ game-icing drive and Tahlequah won 35-20 over Grove in their District 5A-4 opener Friday.
“We knew the last series, he had to take the ball every single step,” Gilbert said. “It’s the confidence we have in him.”
The 5-foot-11, 187-pound oldest son of Muskogee assistant Josh McMillan had 224 yards rushing on 26 carries, scoring two TDs, thus giving him 703 yards rushing in four games.
His last touchdown was the most important as Grove had closed to within a touchdown.
“When we got into that situation last week where things went wrong there were a lot of heads hanging,” McMillan said. “I didn’t want that to happen again. I told the line to give me a hole and I’d do the rest.
“I was glad I could show I could score when it mattered.”
It’s a confidence that he’s developed over time.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve yet to fumble,” he said. “I was fumble-prone last year and I changed the way I held on to the football and also took it to heart that the team relied on me to avoid those mistakes.”
Gilbert sees it.
“A confident running back runs harder and he’s done that,” he said. “He reads our zone scheme well. He runs through tackles and his yards after initial contact is extremely high. You have to form tackle him to bring him down and he’ll also execute a stiff-arm to separate from you.”
McMillan and his younger brother Kourt were adopted by the Muskogee assistant when Mason was 4.
“I would have liked to have played there but I also have family and friends I’ve grown up with here,” he said.
Tahlequah is now 1-3 but more importantly 1-0 in district play.
“I wanted to win this one with our home crowd to drum up some support for when we hit the road,” McMillan said.
Tahlequah goes to Claremore on Friday.
The week 4 honor roll:
Mason McMillan, Tahlequah — Rushed 26 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-20 win over Grove.
Warren Zachary, Vian — Scored three times, once on a 44-yard interception, again on a 64-yard punt return and the other on a rush in a 68-0 win over Pocola.
Jamaul Cullom, Hilldale — Rushed 12 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns in the 26-7 win over Jay. Also had an interception.
Josh Giem, Hilldale — Made a team-high 16 tackles including three for a loss and forced a fumble against Jay.
Justin Sanders, Hilldale — Had 13 tackles including two for a loss against Jay.
Lawrence Evitt, Wagoner — 14 rushes, 244 yards and three touchdowns in Wagoner’s 43-7 win over Catoosa. Also had an interception.
Cade Shearwood, Stigler — 15 carries for 211 yards and three touchdowns, Passed for one touchdown in a 48-16 win over Spiro.
Seth Sandlin, Stigler — Rushed 11 times for 167 yards.
Brayden Scott, Sequoyah — 10-of-24 passing for 253 yards and four touchdowns in a 58-13 win over Locust Grove.
Karter Woodruff, Sequoyah — 10 carries, 119 yards.
Logan Robinson, Boulevard Christian — Had a 38-yard touchdown pass, a 43-yard reception adn two interceptions, one for 72 yards and a score in the 50-0 win over Southwest Christian.
Tate Wade, Boulevard Christian — 10 tackles and caught a touchdown pass.
Sean Davis, Boulevard Christian — Completed all three of his passes for touchdowns and 100 yards.
Matt Beard, Eufaula — 23 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown in a 28-21 loss to Idabel.
Tyler Addy, Checotah — 20-of-31 passing for 225 yards and rushed for two scores in a 22-20 loss to Roland.
Alex Wheeland, Haskell — Rushed for 187 yards and passed for 158 in a 56-34 loss to Meeker.
Jacob Richardson and Cody Stockton, Porter — Led with 10 tackles each in a 28-0 loss to Keifer.
Jake Gandara, Fort Gibson — Five rushes for 136 yards in a 59-8 win over Tulsa Rogers.
Week 5 schedule
(All Friday 7:30 p.m. unless noted)
Westmoore at Muskogee
Hilldale at Inola
Broken Bow at Fort Gibson
Tulsa McLain at Wagoner
Tahlequah at Claremore
Sequoyah at Keys
Checotah at Valliant
Stigler at Eufaula
Haskell at Holdenville
Antlers at Vian
Hulbert at Wyandotte
Canadian at Gore
Porter at Warner
Wetumka at Porum
Bokoshe at Midway
Webbers Falls at Thackerville
Boulevard Christian at Life Christian, 7 p.m.