By Mike Tupa
Oh, so close!
Barnsdall High School’s football team backed the Morrison Wildcats against the ropes with the final buzzer about to ring.
But — in sticking with the boxing analogy — Morrison escaped the fury of Barnsdall’s flurry and found a way to win the decision.
The Wildcats eked out the 24-22 victory in a contest rife with playoff implications.
Barnsdall (5-2) fell to 2-2 in District A-5 and is now in a position to have to win at least two of the next three games to board the postseason bus. Morrison (4-2) — which has struggled a bit more than usual — improved to 2-2 to remain in the playoff conversation.
Barnsdall nearly dealt the Wildcats a knockout blow.
“We kind of gave that one away,” Barnsdall Panthers head coach Kylee Sweeney said.
Barnsdall rallied from a 16-7 halftime deficit to burst ahead, 22-16, in the fourth quarter.
Heath Moles scored on a three-yard curl route — off a pass from Joe Cole — for Barnsdall’s first-half touchdown. Braden Kelley booted the extra point.
Barnsdall didn’t make a conversion on its final score.
Morrison then drove the ball for the winning touchdown — taking advantage of a pair of busted coverages.
“We let a guy wide open on a wheel route,” Sweeney said.
Barnsdall also suffered a blocked field goal — on a 27-yard try — that might have ultimately made the difference. The Panthers trailed at the time, 16-14.
Sweeney said he observed a Morrison player hurtle the line on the block and asked in vain for a call by the official.
“I told my guys that on the road you’ve got to deal with adversity,” Sweeney said.
In the first half, Barnsdall trailed, 8-7, and had the ball. But, a tipped pass on the drive resulted in a pick-six for the Wildcats.
Michael Marin and Cole each scored a second-half touchdown for Barnsdall — Marin on a 19-yard pass play, Cole on a 12-yard streak.
Cole completed 12-of-22 passes for 150 yards and two scores, while tossing one pick.
Marin amassed 129 yards of total offense — 72 yards rushing on 15 carries, and two catches for 57 yards.
Moles seized four receptions for 45 yards.
Despite the loss, “We still control our own destiny,” Sweeney said. “But, we have to win two of the next three to possibly make the playoffs. District points might play a huge factor.”
Barnsdall plays host this week to Pawnee, travels on Oct. 25 to Tonkawa and wraps up the regular season with a home game Nov. 1 against Woodland.