Matt Hennesy’s Pawhuska Huskies never led Kellyville in the season opener Friday evening, but the new coach’s eager young team stayed close for a half. The Kellyville Ponies defeated the Huskies, 36-20.


“We played tough the first half,” Hennesy said after the game. He noted some of the players had trouble with cramping in the warm weather, and he told his team that there were things they would need to correct.


The first game of the 2018 season was marked by optimism about the players, the coach and the new artificial turf at Ormond Beach Stadium. PHS fans stayed until the end and they yelled enthusiastically.


Kellyville led 16-14 at the intermission, on the strength of two touchdowns, each capped by a 2-point conversion. Pawhuska managed two touchdowns, but converted on just one 2-point attempt. The other failed.


In the second half, however, Kellyville’s grinding running game took over and the Ponies extended their lead to 36-14 before Pawhuska managed a last touchdown with a minute to go in the fourth quarter.


Kellyville scored its first touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first quarter. The Ponies capped an 80-yard drive, which began with 7:01 to go in the quarter, with a touchdown pass from 25 yards out. Kellyville thought it had scored a play earlier, with 31.6 seconds left in the quarter, but that effort was called back.


Pawhuska began its next possession at its 43-yard-line and Huskies’ quarterback Bryce Drummond hit Evan Frye with a 29-yard pass to the Kellyville 28. Drummond follwed that with a first-down pass to Mason Gilkey. Cade McNeil finished off the drive, scoring on a short toss from Drummond. The 2-point attempt failed and Pawhuska trailed 8-6 with 10:56 left in the second quarter.


Kellyville began its next offensive possession at midfield and seemed poised to mount a scoring drive, but Pawhuska junior J.T. Waddle intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned the ball to the 24. Waddle had a sparkling game on defense, offense and special teams Friday. He also accounted for a good return, several pass receptions on offense and his name was called in connection with tackles as the Huskies tried to slow down Kellyville’s ground attack.


“He’s one of our best players, a quiet leader,” Hennesy said.


Following Waddle’s interception, the Huskies began to piece together what might have become a drive, but a Kellyville defender picked off an Easton Kirk pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown. Kirk hustled and made a touchdown-saving tackle on the play, but Kellyville scored with 5:50 left in the quarter, made a two-point conversion and went up 16-6.


Waddle contributed a long return on the ensuing kickoff and put the Huskies’ offense in business at the Kellyville 32. The drive almost stalled out, but Pawhuska kept it alive with a dramatic fourth-down pass. Easton Kirk capped the possession with a touchdown run with 2:09 left in the half. Pawhuska made a two-point conversion and the score was 16-14 for Kellyville.


In the third quarter, the Ponies took the ball on the opening kickoff and scored nearly five minutes later. The kick for an extra point failed and Kellyville led 22-14. They continued to play a grinding running game that ate up large chunks of time, and despite continued energetic efforts by the Huskies the issue had been decided.