A remarkable turnaround in the second half of the Pawhuska High School football season has brought the Huskies to a showdown with destiny.
Friday night at Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium, PHS will host the leaders of District 2A-7 — the Adair Warriors — in a high-stakes finale to a regular-season football schedule that has been far from regular for the Huskies. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Under new head coach Bob Craig and his rebuilt coaching staff, Pawhuska has managed to overcome a heart-wrenching 0-4 start by winning four of its last five games — all of them versus district foes.
Last Friday, the Huskies improved to 4-1 in 2A-7 and 4-5 overall with a road triumph at Oklahoma Union that clinched them a spot in the postseason. (This is the fifth consecutive year — and sixth time in seven seasons — that the Huskies have qualified for Oklahoma’s Class 2A playoffs.)
"We told them five weeks ago that nobody remembers September when you’re playing in November," the Pawhuska coach said. "The margin for error has been small and there may have been times when nobody was giving us a chance to do anything — but these players and coaches have earned the right to be where we’re at."
Adair will arrive with an 8-1 season record and an unblemished 5-0 district mark. A PHS victory would give the Huskies at least three-way share of a district championship and send them into the postseason with some pretty mighty momentum.
"Next week, everybody is 0-0 again," said Craig.
A Senior Night ceremony will take place prior to Friday’s contest.
"I believe every team is remembered for its seniors and I want our group to leave with a good feeling about their accomplishments," Craig said. "What they’ve accomplished this season and making the playoffs every year has not been an easy task."
Twelve seniors are listed on PHS’s 2013 roster and among the dozen is an impressive contingent of multi-duty stars. Senior members of the Huskie squad include: Kendall Oller, Justin Barnes, Logan Bigeagle, Conner McNeil, Taylor Priest, Zalin Edwards, Bryce Wilson, Trevor Easley, Eli Florence, Sean Valencia, Meliak Farr and Donovan Guy.
Senior cheerleaders for Pawhuska include Morgan Waddle, Haley Malaske and Darian Lookout. Among the team managers of the Huskies are seniors Hanna Henley and Kailsey Cheves. Also, senior members of the PHS band are Catherine Garner and Caleb Miller.
Adair lost its first regular-season game since 2010 in the third week of the current campaign when it got drilled, 34-7, by 2A powerhouse Oklahoma City Millwood. The Falcons had been a late addition on the Warriors’ schedule where they replaced A-class neighborhood foe Foyil.
Two years ago, the Warriors went undefeated in the regular season but were stunned by the Huskies, 19-13, in a first-round playoff upset at Adair. Realignment then made the Warriors and Huskies district rivals for 2012 and this year. Pawhuska was handed a 38-14 road loss in last year’s district finale at Adair, as the Warriors captured a 2A-7 title to add with the ones they’ve won in 2A-8.
The Huskies were eliminated from the playoffs a week later via a 48-15 road loss to the Commerce Tigers. PHS finished 4-7. The Warriors went on to post a 30-point win over their first opponent, the Wyandotte Bears, then squeezed past Okemah, 36-35. But, the Adair run was ended with a one-digit loss (34-33) to the eventual state runnersup, the Davis Wolves — who lost to Oklahoma Christian in the finale, 44-41.
Next season, Adair will return to District 2A-8 — accompanied by current 2A-7 member Chouteau-Mazie. The Warriors and Wildcats will be changing places with Commerce (the Tigers have won its first nine this season) and Wyandotte.
Week 9 Recap:
HUSKIES 36, COUGARS 6
SOUTH COFFEYVILLE — ‘Senior Night’ at Oklahoma Union High School turned into ‘Big Play Friday’ for the Pawhuska Huskies, who clinched a spot in the Class 2A football playoffs by walloping the host Cougars, 34-6.
Pawhuska scored four times from 40-or-more yards out and built a 27-0 lead before halftime en route to its third straight victory. After losing four in a row to start the campaign, the Huskies now can claim at least a piece of the District 2A-7 crown with a win next week.
The Huskies fumbled the ball away on the third snap of their initial possession Friday, but put the first points on the board on the second play of their next series. Conner McNeil snagged a pass from quarterback Zalin Edwards and raced to a 51-yard touchdown with 3:23 left in the opening quarter. The senior wideout spun loose from a tackler toward the inside of the field, then cut back outside for the final 35 yards.
With 18 seconds left in the period, senior Bryce Wilson caught a quick-hit screen pass and stormed 41 yards to the second Huskie TD. Three minutes later, Edwards re-connected with Wilson over the middle for a 68-yard score that put the Pawhuska up by 20 points. Senior QB Edwards completed all seven of his pass attempts in racking up 213 yards and three touchdowns.
Less than five minutes remained in the half when Edwards also ran one in for the Huskies. The 11-yard TD dash came two plays after a longer Edwards’ run-in was brought back because of a personal-foul penalty for illegal helmet-to-helmet contact. Caleb Bruce kicked his third extra point to put the visitors ahead, 27-0, at the break.
The lopsided score was ludicrously matched by the opponents’ totals for time of possession in the half. PHS needed only 6 minutes plus to score its 27 points, while the Cougars hung a goose-egg despite having the ball for more than 17 minutes.
"In some ways, Oklahoma Union was one of the best offensive teams we have played in our district," said Pawhuska’s coach Craig.
Pawhuska struck again one minute and two plays into the third quarter. Sophomore running back Matthew Taft exploded for a 42-yard score down the home sideline, with Bruce booting the conversion to make it 34-0 for the Huskies.
Turnovers stopped several drives in the second half as Pawhuska turned mainly to its reserve units. Oklahoma Union ground out four straight first downs on its initial second-half series before it ended after near the Huskie 10-yard line on a pass interception by Wilson, who returned it for 20 yards.
The Huskies ran out the remainder of the third quarter but lost possession on the second play of the fourth when McCune intercepted and made a 25-yard return for the Cougars. Ten plays later, Taft picked off a fourth-down pass at the PHS 10 before the Huskies lost a fumble that set up Oklahoma Union for its lone score.
It was the second straight week that the PHS defense has been deprived of a shutout late in the game due to a turnover deep in its own territory.
OU workhorse Kody Webb took a direct snap and ran 12 yards for the Cougar TD, which came with 3:44 remaining in the game. The conversion run attempt was denied by the Huskies. Webb — a senior who also recovered the fumble that led to his score — finished with 95 yards on 25 carries. OU freshman Jacob Auer had a fumble recovery early in the game.
McCune, the sophomore signal-caller for OU, completed four of eight pass attempts for 38 yards. He hit four different receivers — including Webb, Dalton Dotson and Dakota Scott. Cougars’ senior Tanner Dickson caught a 22-yarder on a scrambling fourth-down throw by McCune.
Oklahoma Union, playing its first campaign under head coach Rich Giesen, dropped to 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the district. The Cougars are to conclude the year at Ramona versus the Caney Valley Trojans.
HUSKIES 34, COUGARS 6
Pawhuska Huskies 14 13 7 0 — 34
Oklahoma Union 0 0 0 6 — 6
P — Conner McNeil 51-yard pass from Zalin Edwards (Caleb Bruce kick), 3:23
P — Bryce Wilson 41-yard pass from Edwards (Caleb Bruce kick), :18
P — Wilson 68-yard pass from Edwards (kick failed), 9:52
P — Zalin Edwards 11-yard run (Bruce kick), 4:47
P — Matthew Taft 44-yard run (Bruce kick), 10:59
OU — Kody Webb 12-yard run (run failed), 3:44
First downs: PHS 14, OU 9
Rushes-yards: PHS 25-149, OU 40-107
Passing yards: PHS 233, OU 38
Pass comp-att-int: PHS 8-9-1, OU 4-8-2
Return yards: PHS 68, OU 71
Punts-avg.: PHS 1-29, OU 5-29
Fumbles lost: PHS 2, OU 0
Penalties-yards: PHS 6-55, OU 4-30
Pawhuska Huskies (4-5, 4-1)
Rushing — Matthew Taft 9 carries-100 yards-1 TD, Zalin Edwards 3-23-1 TD, Taylor Priest 2-5, Daniel Nightengale 4-3, Colton Hindman 3-6, Caleb Bruce 1-9, Gage Dagenais 3-3.
Passing — Zalin Edwards 7 completions-7 attempts-213 yards-3 TDs, Colton Hindman 1-2-20-1 INT.
Receiving — Bryce Wilson 3 catches-130 yards-2 TDs, Conner McNeil 3-81-1 TD, Taylor Priest 1-2, Hayden Javellas 1-20.
Oklahoma Union Cougars (3-6, 1-4)
Rushing — Kody Webb 25 carries-95 yards-1 TD, Dakota Scott 11-15, Kannon McCune 4-minus 3.
Passing — Kannon McCune 4 completions-8 attempts-38 yards-2 INTs.
Receiving — Dalton Dotson 1 catch-9 yards, Kody Webb 1-5, Dakota Scott 1-2, Tanner Dickson 1-22.