TAHLEQUAH — This winning stuff is fun.
For the first time since 2015, Miami has started its football season 2-1 thanks to a 30-14 win over Tahlequah Sequoyah here Friday, Sept. 7.
The 2015 Wardogs opened with a 21-20 loss to Grove then beat Verdigris and Nowata.
The only time the Wardogs started the season any better was in 2005, when they won their first games before stumbling against Glenpool.
The win also was significant in that it was head coach Zach Gardner’s 100th career win.
His first 98 came while at Afton.
Just as it did in a Week Zero win over Claremore Sequoyah, Miami used a big second half to flip things.
“We kept plugging away,” Gardner said. “Our summer conditioning paid off and probably our early schedule paid off. This was game three for us and game two for them. You could kinda tell.”
Tahlequah Sequoyah went up 13-9 thanks to a 29-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Skylar Birdtail to Shade Watie with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
After coughing the ball up on their next possession, the Dogs held Sequoyah to a three-and-out then embarked on a snappy 48-yard, five-play drive that was capped by a 26-yard pop up the middle by Jordon Freeman.
Skyler Judd’s PAT kick gave Miami the lead for good with 1:22 left in the third.
A 20-yard run by Caden Folks and the extra-point kick by Judd made it 23-13, then Folks sucked the life out of Sequoyah with an impressive 31-yard TD romp with 2:30 left in the game.
Folks was bottled up by the Indians’ defense, but kept chugging and eventually popped loose at the 20 and set sail for the end zone.
The Wardogs finished with 222 rushing yards, 162 of that coming in the second half.
“It really opened up,” Gardner said. “We struggled at time and they were really good up front. But our conditioning paid off. We kept plugging away.”
Birdtail started the game completing seven of his first nine pass attempts, but finished the game going 15-of-32 for 143 yards with one interception.
“We got some hands on some balls defensively and they lost their mental focus because they were so lethargic and tired,” Gardner said.
Sequoyah wound up with 250 yards in total offense.
“The defense played well, especially as thin as we were with three starters out on the defensive side of the ball,” Gardner said.
Freeman was Miami’s leading rusher with 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Folks had 11 carries for 63 yards and two scores while Payton added 44 yards on 15 attempts.
Payton completed 7 of 16 passes for 91 yards and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Josh Thronebury with 36 seconds left in the first half.
Tyler Purkey was the Indians’ leading rusher with 60 yards. Watie added 47.
Miami is idle until Sept. 21, when it begins district play at home against Grove.