By Eric Shannon
FORT GIBSON – It was a game for more than likely the top prize, the District 4A-4 crown, and it looked like two prize fighters trading blow for blow for 48 minutes.
This round belonged to the favorite, as the visiting sixth-ranked Poteau Pirates plundered No. 7 Fort Gibson’s homecoming 42-28 at Leo Donahue Tiger Stadium Friday night.
The Pirates (6-0, 3-0 ) were led by running back Roger Barcheers 177 yards rushing on 25 carries and quarterback Jace Pitchford chipped in 199 total yards in the effort.
“Their quarterback is one heck of a player. He and their running back gave us problems all night,” Fort Gibson coach James Singleton said. “Both teams kept throwing haymakers back and forth all night. Both teams pressed and neither would back down.”
The Pirates thought they had the Tigers (4-2, 2-1) backing down after Pitchford engineered three drives in the first two quarters to give his team a 20-7 lead with 4:12 left in the second quarter.
Beginning at their own 37 yard line, J.R. Singleton pumped some life into his squad when he took a quarterback throwback pass from Jordan London 42 yards to the Pirates’ 10 yard line. Four plays later on a fourth and goal at the two, Singleton dove in and cut the lead at halftime 20-14.
“They are a good football team and we knew Singleton was a good quarterback and he just kept making plays for them,” Poteau coach Greg Werner said. “I am proud of our kids to come down here and win at their place. They did a tremendous job.”
A 42-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter put Poteau at the Tigers 32. Five plays into the drive, Pitchford found Hunter Bradshaw cutting across the end zone and put the Pirates up 28-14 with 9:57 left in the third quarter.
With the ensuing possession, the Tigers mounted a clock-eating, 18-play, 80-yard drive with three fourth-down conversions. Singleton finally closed out the drive with a three-yard plunge with 5:01 to narrow the defict to 28-21.
Poteau countered with its own clock-eating drive with a 13-play march that was capped when Roger Barcheers sprinted up the left sideline for the score and a 34-21 lead with 11:39 left in the game.
The Pirates then threw their left cross, the knockout blow that took the Tigers to their knees, courtesy of Jordan Key’s fumble recovery and 40-yard return for the score to pad the lead to 42-21 with 10:38 left in the game. A fumbled exchange between J.R. Singleton and Chris Walker at the Tigers’ 40-yard line resulted in the fumble.
“That fumble return was huge. It set us back and put us in a big hole,” the Fort Gibson coach said. “The game came down to a few plays and that was one of those huge plays on the night. They made it and we didn’t.”
Werner echoed Singleton on the fumble return.
“We knew we had to force turnovers to win this game and when Jordan picked up that ball I knew no one was going to catch him.”
Singleton tried to rally his troops late in the game when he punched in a one-yard run with 7:59 left, but the Pirates were able to run out the clock.
“They were a lot more physical up front that we thought they were going to be,” said Singleton. “But our kids worked hard, we battled and we can take from this and build on it. We might be playing for the last first round home playoff game, so we need to win out.”
POTEAU 42, FORT GIBSON 28
POTEAU 13 7 8 14—42
FORT GIBSON 7 7 7 7—28
PHS - Jarrett Lowerimore 13 pass from Jace Pitchford (Pitchrford kick) 6:48
FGHS - Jordan London 20 pass from J.R. Singleton (Daniel Mielnik kick) 3:24
PHS - Roger Bracheers 8 run (kick fail) :09
PHS - Jordan Key 29 pass from Pitchford (Pitchford kick) 4:12
FGHS - Singleton 2 run (Mielnik kick) :34
PHS - Hunter Bradshaw 13 pass from Pitchford (Pitchford run) 9:57
FGHS - Singleton 3 run (Mielnik kick) 3:58
PHS - Barcheers 21 run (kick blocked) 11:39
PHS - Key 40 fumble return (Mason Jones pass from Pitchford) 10:28
FGHS - Singleton 1 run (Mielnik kick) 7:59
First Downs 21 18
Rushes -Yards 40-241 34-112
Passing C-A-I 9-13-1 16-33-0
Passing Yards 136 270
Punts - Avg. 1-33 3-38
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-1
Penalties Yards 6-40 5-55
Rushing: PHS,Jace Pitchford 13-63, Roger Barcheers 25-177. FGHS, Michael Ritchey 6-25, J.R. Singleton 17-25, Tristan Johnson 3-29, Chris Walker 7-27.
Passing: PHS, Pitchford 13-9-1-2-136. FGHS, Singleton 32-15-0-0-228, Jordan London 1-1-0-0-42.
Receiving: Poteau, Jarrett Lowrimore 3-23, Connor Wheat 1-29, Kendrick Hardaway 1-20. FGHS, Jordan London 6-66, Zach Drain 2-57, Singleton 1-42, Zach Peterson 1-52, Will Rumbley 1-7, Tristen Johnson 1-17.