COLLINSVILLE — Tahlequah kept its stronghold on Class 5A with an epic 35-28 overtime win over Collinsville Friday night at Sallee Field in Collinsville.

The No. 3 Tigers, the only unbeaten team remaining in 5A, got a late 10-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Tate Christian to receiver Simeon Armstrong with 24 seconds left to tie the game at 28-28, and Christian added a six-yard scoring strike to Tristan King in overtime for the deciding points against the sixth-ranked Cardinals.

The Tigers overcame second-half deficits on two occasions.

“We continued to battle back,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said. “The second half, [Collinsville] came out and took the lead and we would always answer offensively, and we finish it in overtime. It was a great win, great team win, and it’s a great program win. Anytime you can come up here and beat Collinsville, you’ve earned it.”

The Tigers’ defense finished it off when it pressured Cardinals’ quarterback Kolten Allphin and forced an incomplete pass on fourth down from the 6-yard line.

Tahlequah moves to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in District 5A-4, while Collinsville slips to 4-2 and 2-1. The Tigers will be in another top 10 battle next week when they visit No. 9 Pryor on Thursday.

Christian’s TD pass to send the gave into overtime capped a 69-yard scoring drive after the Cardinals had a 9-yard touchdown run from Allphin with 6:31 remaining.

Christian produced in crucial situations late following a third quarter interception that would shift momentum.

“It starts in summer workouts,” said Christian, who also directed a late-scoring drive that took down Skiatook last week. “Coaches know what we’re going to go through in the season and there’s enough of them on the staff that’s been there forever. Coach [Gary] McClure and my dad [Brandon Christian] were on the team that won the last district championship, and that’s what we’ve been talking about the past couple of weeks is going out to get that.”

Christian, who completed 13 of 23 passes for 131 yards with three touchdowns, got a ton of help from standout running back Dae Dae Leathers, who entered the game with 756 yards and nine touchdowns.

Leathers sparkled behind a dominant offensive line and rushed for a game-high 204 yards on 33 carries with a pair of TDs. Leathers had the game’s only points in the first half, a two-yard touchdown run.

Tahlequah finished with 399 total yards of offense. Jaxon Jones had a team-high 57 receiving yards on five receptions. Collinsville closed with 195 total yards and were led by Allphin’s 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Byron Beers writes for the Tahlequah Daily Press.

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