Three straight character-building losses have ushered in the 2014 Pawhuska High School football campaign, so the Huskies certainly deserve to catch a break this week in their last game before starting all-important district competition.
Unfortunately, hard luck continues to be a companion of the tough and talented PHS squad. This Friday night’s visiting opponent, Metro Christian of Tulsa, will come in with a 3-0 record, having rolled over its two most recent foes by a combined 1oo-to-2 margin.
Prior to last Friday’s heart-wrenching, last-second loss to Hominy, PHS coaches emphasized to the players how important it is to play all 48 minutes of a contest.
Because of injuries to dual starters Taylor Priest (ribs) and Hayden Javellas (ankle), several young Pawhuska players stepped up to prove themselves at Hominy. Versatile sophomore Matthew Taft caught a touchdown pass with less than three minutes remaining.
Caleb Bruce made his PHS varsity debut even though he was still slightly hobbled by pre-season leg issues. The freshman do-anything back saw action on both offense and defense, while also handling place-kicking duties. He booted three extra points, including a late one that put the Huskies in front, 27-26. (A fourth PAT attempt was blocked.)
A couple of rising stars continued showing exceptional skills for Pawhuska. Freshman John Bighorse rushed for 50 yards on 15 solid carries and scored the game’s first touchdown. On defense, Bighorse and sophomores Hayden Henley and Jacob Lessert were among the team’s leading tacklers.
Junior phenom Marshall Tolson made a touchdown-saving tackle in the first quarter after chasing down the Bucks’ kickoff returner at the 2-yard line. Tolson was a major force on both sides of the ball. (The Hominy kick returner, Connor Edwards, would be heard from again, too.)
PHS seniors Donovan Guy, Logan Bigeagle and Sean Valencia played important roles in various capacities. Among other things, Guy was holder on extra points.
Stunning Buck finish
The Huskies handled heaping helpings of adversity at Hominy, yet appeared to be headed for victory as time expired on the game clock.
Hominy connected with a 39-yard "Hail to the Chief" touchdown pass on the final play of the game lifted the Bucks over the Huskies, 32-27, in the annual battle of Osage County football rivals.
Three seconds showed on the clock when Hominy quarterback Edwin Mendez took the final snap and no time was left as he passed deep down the middle toward sprinting teammate Connor Edwards. After the ball grazed the fingers of a leaping Huskie defender, it was hauled in by Edwards near the 10-yard line.
Edwards outraced another Pawhuska pursuer over the final strides as he was tripped up at the goal line and stumbled into the end zone — sparking a Hominy celebration and leaving Huskie fans stunned in disbelief.
The game-ending touchdown culminated a four-play Bucks’ drive that started 63 yards from paydirt with only 17 seconds remaining. Less than three minutes earlier, Pawhuska had taken a one-point lead following a 76-yard march.
Pawhuska grabbed a 7-0 lead with 4:21 to play in the first period on a three-yard run by freshman John Bighorse. But, before the quarter ended, Hominy scored its initial touchdowns on Mendez runs of four and 10 yards. The first was set up on an 86-yard kickoff return by Edwards. After scoring the second, Mendez ran a two-point conversion to give the Bucks a 14-7 edge.
The Huskies tied the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter when Bryce Wilson caught a 21-yard TD pass from quarterback Zalin Edwards. Pawhuska tied the game again at 20-20 with the only points in the third stanza. Edwards dashed 12 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-20 following a short drive that started with a blocked punt by PHS sophomore Gage Dagenais.
Hominy regained the lead less than three minutes later when Mendez passed over the middle to a wide-open Alexander for a 53-yard score. That made it 26-20 early in the fourth quarter and set the stage for a fantastic finish.
Pawhuska’s Edwards fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Matthew Taft with 2:56 left to cap a five-play drive that tied the score at 26-26. A point-after kick by freshman Caleb Bruce gave the visitors the lead.
For the Huskies, Edwards finished the contest with 12 completions in 18 attempts for 137 yards and two touchdowns. The senior also led PHS in rushing with 68 yards and one score.
Mendez ran for 70 yards to top the Bucks. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 201 yards, with Alexander (seven catches, 97 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Connor (5-89-1 TD) leading the receivers.