CHOCTAW — It was inspired football, but laced with enough missed opportunities and mistakes to cost Muskogee a shot at an upset here Thursday, losing 26-10 to the Choctaw Yellowjackets in a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game this time played in District 6AII-2 action.
Unlike that game, the Yellowjackets are on the rise and in the thick of a playoff hunt. Muskogee’s rise with youth riddled all year by injuries and other departures made progress in modest increments.
The Roughers’ first two drives were gift-wrapped but the package was empty.
Taking advantage of a high snap punt recovered by Israel Martin at the 3, Muskogee was stuffed on four consecutive runs between the tackles and came up with nothing.
After one first down by the Yellowjackets, the Roughers forced a punt. On the first play from the Choctaw 39, Walker Newton connected with Antonio Zapata in the flat who took it 52 yards to the 9. From there, it was nowhere on three downs and Skyleer Onebeer’s 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
A turning point?
“It might have been, but I’m glad to see we didn’t quit there,” MHS coach Rafe Watkins said. “We definitely should have gotten the 10 points early but for it to happen at the first of the game and not to give up, and honestly we know we’ve had some lulls where bad things happened and then bad things continued to happen…
“I mean don’t get me wrong, we were disappointed. I’m just happy we fought back.”
Set up by Seneca Collins’ interception, Muskogee had great field position at the 50 but after an offsides penalty gave them a first down, the drive fizzled. But T.K. Thompson was on the fumbled punt return and the Roughers were inside the 10 again.
From the 8, they got in four plays, Newton scoring on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Steele Wasel replaced Ethan Rone at quarterback for Choctaw and struck on two straight possessions. The first culminated in a 13-yard pass to Terrill Davis. and after Muskogee countered with a nine-play drive ending on a 35-yard field goal by Onebear, Wasel burned Muskogee on two fourth-down situations, the first a 37-yarder on a fourth-and 8 to the 33 then a 20-yarder on a fourth-and-4, both to Davis, the last getting it to the 7. There he found Jax Burchett for the TD and a 14-10 halftime lead.]
The Muskogee offense sputtered in the second half, but was within reach for most of it. Newton missed by a good 10 yards a wide-open Zapata on a deep pass at the Choctaw 20. After the punt, La’Trell Ray busted loose 85 yards on a jet sweep to make it 20-10 with 5:57 to go in the third quarter.
“Walker’s got to make easier throws and he’s still learning. But they have two great corners who played well,” Watkins said. “The kid going to OU (Jordan Mukes) fits the part.”
Wasel’s 1-yard touchdown run with 7:52 left in the fourth came after a lateral toss from Newton to Zapata, who went deep to Jayden Bell but off target and into the hands of Bolton Hawkins for the Yellowjackets.
Choctaw, which gave Bixby its closest game all season at 24-13 last week, moved to 4-3 and 3-1.
Muskogee went to 0-6 for the first time in program history, and 0-3 in district play, but it didn’t get there with ease, giving Watkins hope for his young squad.
“Overall I thought the defense by leaps and bounds played its best game,” he said. “Our tackling was outstanding. We had some breakdowns in coverage but overall, I cannot complain about the effort and the resiliency I saw tonight.”
His team draws Bixby at home next Friday.
CHOCTAW 26 ,MUSKOGEE 10
MHS: Walker Newton 1 run (Carter Stewart kick), 10:22.
CHS: Terrill Davis 13 pass from Steele Wasel (run failed), 8:18.
MHS: Skyleer Onebear 35 FG, 3:28.
CHS: Jax Burchett 7 pass from Wasel (Burchett pass from Wasel), 38.6
CHS: La’Trell Ray 85 run (pass failed), 5:57.
CHS: Wasel 1 run (pass failed), 7:52.
Rushing: MHS, Isaiah Givens 28-77. CHS, Ray 18-160 (TD).
Passing: MHS, Newton 7-18-105-1. CHS, Wasel 13-22-240 (2 TD).
Receiving: MHS, Antonio Zapata 3-91. CHS, Davis 7-148 (TD).