By Mike Tupa
That Barnsdall (now 8-3) pulled off a minor upset at Commerce was no major surprise.
But, how the Panthers dominated the Tigers (8-3) on their homefield, winning 33-7, certainly put some heads on a swivel.
It started with Joe “The Whole Payroll” Cole and Michael “The Menace” Marin — but also included an astronomical contribution by receiver Heath Moles, who roped in seven catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Cole played like a one-man avalanche of pain. He finished with 442 yards of total offense (278 rushing, 164 rushing) and four touchdowns — one them for 30 yards.
Marin wreaked mayhem on the Tiger defense, wheeling, dealing and reeling to 145 yards rushing and 66 receiving for 211 total yards.
As a team, the Panthers averaged 9.5 yards per rushing attempt on their way to nearly 600 yards of total offense — about 200 yards above their season average.
“In the first half, we had 205 yards passing and ran for 86 yards,” veteran Barnsdall head coach Kylee Sweeney reported.
For example, Braden Kelley scored on a 30-yard pass play — only to have it negated by a holding call.
Marin had two long scoring jaunts disallowed because of penalty hankies.
But, most of it was just sound and fury signifying only a 14-7 halftime lead.
“We shot ourselves in the football a couple of times in the first half,” Sweeney said, laying a large part of the misfired momentum on infortuitous penalties.
The Panthers fixed whatever ailed them and stormed to 240 yards rushing and 19 unanswered points in the second half.
This was the third time in four years Barnsdall has made the playoffs with head coach Kylee Sweeney in charge — but the first time since at least the early 1990s that the Panthers won a playoff decision on the gridiron.
Friday’s victory improved Sweeney’s career record at Barnsdall to 26-17 — an average of nearly seven wins per year. And, the season isn’t done yet.
With the victory, Barnsdall moves into the second round with a road trip to Gore.
Sweeney nurses no small optimism about Barnsdall’s chance to win and make it to the Elite Eight.
None of it would have been possible without Barnsdall’s win against Commerce — considered an upset on a more minor scale. Commerce (7-4) was the higher seed and enjoyed homefield advantage.
But, the Tigers were little prepared for Barnsdall’s galloping weapons in Cole, Marin and Moles — and not to forget Kelley and Josh Webber, who both hauled in three catches for approximately 40 yards apiece.
Marin upped his career yardage total to more than 5,400 yards, as well as added to his touchdown total. He scored on a 51-yard romp.
Bryce Shores added three catches for 15 yards.
Sweeney said his team made multiple long drives, due to the length of Commerce’s kicks.
On the defensive side, Cole made 15 tackles — four of them for loss – and forced a fumble.
Kelley and Moles each grabbed an interception.
Barnsdall’s dominance was complete.
“We started taking a knee with 2:30 to go, on the seven-yard line,” Sweeney said. “We had a 33-7 lead and I thought there was no sense in trying to score.”
Sweeney also praised his team for keeping its composure during spurts of emotion and for its hustle.