By Mike Tupa
Barnsdall High School’s amazing football playoff odyssey hit a road bump — but still kept on rolling — during a stunning 29-26 upset of the Gore Pirates in last Friday’s Class A second-round game.
The Panthers had to play more than a full quarter without star quarterback/linebacker Joe Cole, due to an ejection.
Even so, Cole had done enough — helping power the Barnsdall to a 21-7 lead — to help set up the upset win.
Michael Marin unleashed most of the damage for the Panthers.
Just look at these numbers — 27 carries for 290 yards and two touchdowns and a two-point conversion, to go with two catches for 44 yards. That added up to more than 330 yards of total offense.
Next up, Barnsdall gets to stay home this coming Friday to host Cashion in the quarterfinals.
Whether Cole will be available or not was still a question mark Sunday night, Barnsdall head coach Kylee Sweeney said.
Sweeney took exception with Cole’s forced removal by the officials.
Gore had the ball on 2nd-and-8 and the quarterback dropped back to pass, Sweeney said to set up the scenario.
“We get a pass rush with Carson Auschwitz and Joe Cole. Joe hits him with a shoulder pad on the helmet.”
But, the officials penalized Cole for targeting, which ended his night and also possibly a chance to play in this week’s game.
“The hit is not malicious and it’s not violent,” Sweeney said, adding the Gore quarterback “pops up after the hit and finishes the ball game.”
Sweeney said he’s planning to provide the OSSAA a clip of film on the play to make his case Cole didn’t target the quarterback with a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Despite the heavy blow to the Panthers — Cole is a four-year starter, including a two-season starting quarterback — they hung on.
After the penalty and the departure of Cole, the Barnsdall defense intercepted the ball.
Marin — who moved behind center in Cole’s place — then broke loose on a 75-yard touchdown romp. He also bulled in for the two-point conversion to lift Barnsdall to a 29-7 lead.
Gore scored on its next possession and continued to rally. But, Barnsdall (9-3) held on for the historic win.
The Panthers are now just two wins shy of playing for the Gold Ball.
Gore became just another springboard for Barnsdall, which has won two playoff games the same season for the first time in decades.
In addition to Marin’s two touchdowns, Cole powered five yards for another score and also connected with Heath Moles for an 18-yard scoring aerial.
On the defensive side, Cole racked up 13 tackles — three of them for loss; not bad for less than three quarters of play.
Braden Kelley picked his spots for huge defensive contributions — two tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Matthew Lucas made 11 tackles, four for a loss, and a fumble recovery.
Conner Shumate and Auschwitz each amassed eight tackles, followed by Mole with seven tackles.
Marin also saw time at middle linebacker and contributed four tackles.
Barnsdall’s offensive strategy rested heavily on the run game, led by Marin and Cole
The Panthers threw the ball sparingly, with Cole completing 5-of-12 passes for 96 yards.
The bottom line was the win — and Barnsdall’s chance to bring a playoff game to the Panthers’ home field
“It’s awesome,” said Sweeney, whose career record at Barnsdall is now 27-15. “A lot of people around her have been talking. We’re looking forward to packed stadium Friday night. That’s especially rewarding for our seniors, since this is something they’ve been after since they were freshmen.”