Following a close-but-no-cigar defeat in last week’s season opener, the Pawhuska High School Huskies will try again Friday night for a football victory.
This time, the Huskies are going to be on foreign turf at Dewey, not the friendly confines of PHS Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium. The turf will even be foreign even to the host Bulldoggers, who also find themselves 0-1 following a punishing loss on the road.
Dewey is currently putting the finishing touches on a artificial turf project approved earlier this year as part of a $6 million bond issue. Installation — which was far behind schedule a month ago — should be completed in time for Friday’s unveiling at Bulldogger Stadium, school officials said.
Pawhuska head coach Bob Craig has had some previous experience with such fields. The stadium at Beggs, where he previously coached, switched to a synthetic surface four years ago. Craig isn’t worried about the Dewey turf deciding the outcome of this week’s game, however.
"It will still come down to what we can do with the football and which team makes the fewest mistakes," the first-year coach of the Huskies said.
Field position made a big difference last week in PHS’s home loss to the Tonkawa Buccaneers. Although a courageous defensive effort kept the Huskies in contention until the final minute, a fourth-quarter rally fell a few plays short in the 15-6 defeat.
Against a Tonkawa offense that threatened to score on virtually each of its possessions, Pawhuska was kept pinned deep in its own territory from the opening kickoff, which the Huskies downed at the 13-yard line. Next time the home team got the ball, it was on its own 5. And, in eight subsequent series, the best starting field position the Huskies received was at the 37 — a mere 63 yards from paydirt.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, began their first drive at the Pawhuska 28-yard line. But the Huskie defense held, as it did again the next time when Tonkawa pushed to within 15 yards of the goal line. After a rush-shortened Huskie punt, the third Buc drive launched from the PHS 20 and led to a five-play, 20-yard touchdown march.
With a little more seven minutes to go until intermission, Tonkawa scored the only points of the first half when senior tailback Manny Reyes plunged in from a yard out. Reyes then kicked the extra point, giving the visitors a 7-0 lead they spent the rest of the night trying to increase.
The Bucs started the second half with a 12-play drive to the Pawhuska 25 before Huskie defensive linemen Marshall Tolson and Hayden Hensley recorded back-to-back sacks to thwart the threat. Almost immediately, PHS defenders were called upon again after Tonkawa recovered a fumble (the game’s only turnover) at the Huskie 16. Once more, however, the Pawhuska defense held.
The Huskies began their first series of the fourth quarter with typical field position from their own 11-yard line. Hard running by freshman John Bighorse and a 33-yard pass (from quarterback Zalin Edwards to fellow senior Bryce Wilson) set up the big offensive play of the night for PHS.
As Hayden Javellas ran a reverse to the right for PHS, he faced a wall of would-be tacklers. The junior wide receiver somehow slipped through the Buc defense and transformed into the legendary "Ramblin’ Greek from Bird Creek."
Javellas broke at least four tackles as he sailed 55 yards, breaking inside and back outside before diving across the goal-line pylon for the touchdown. The Huskies went for the lead on a conversion pass attempt that failed, leaving the Bucs with a 7-6 advantage.
Concerning the touchdown dash, Craig said: "He (Javellas) had some help at the (scrimmage) line and Tolson got a block on the perimeter. Other than that, it was just a great individual effort."
On their next possession, the Huskies moved from their own 11 to near midfield before turning the ball over on downs. Pawhuska progress was hampered briefly when Edwards was knocked out of the game for two plays.
"Those were critical plays, though," said Craig, adding that Edwards performed well throughout the game, in which he played on both sides of the ball as well as handling the kicking chores and returns.
The starting QB returned to the lineup only to have a fourth-down pass dropped. Tonkawa then ground the clock down to under two minutes with a pair of first downs. The visitors sealed the victory when fullback Kevin Howard popped through the line and raced 57 yards for an insurance TD with 1:29 remaining. A two-point conversion pass from quarterback Benjamin Hooks to Colton Esch put the contest out of reach.
Reyes ran the ball 23 times and picked up 95 yards to match the team rushing totals for the Huskies, who had 96 yards in 19 attempts. Four other runners added 167 yards in 27 tries for Tonkawa, which racked up 14 first downs (12 of them on the ground) while Pawhuska had eight first downs, with six of those coming through the air.
Craig pointed out that highlight-reel TD run by Javellas was not the only standout play produced by the 5-8, 155-pound junior, who he said probably is the team’s fastest player. Javellas also had a pair of pass receptions good for 41 yards. Javellas also helped bolster the Huskie secondary that allowed Tonkawa just four completions in 12 attempts — with only one of those good for 10 yards or more.
Pawhuska’s running game sputtered. Two of the eight Huskie first downs were gained on the ground — compared to the Bucs who ran for 12 firsts and picked up 15 overall.
"It wasn’t what we wanted, that’s for sure," said Craig.
The Huskies had success through the air, however, with Edwards spreading the ball around to a quartet of receivers — Wilson, Tolson, Javellas and senior running back Taylor Priest.
Sixteen penalties were assessed during the contest, with the first dozen of those called during the initial two quarters. Two additional first-half penalties were declined — one by each team. Mistakes, as well as the dismal field position, was what ultimately sealed the Huskies’ doom, according to the PHS coach.
"Their kicking game kept us from ever starting with good field position," explained Craig. "But, it was our penalties that stopped us too many times when we were able to move the ball."
Craig said the PHS squad "didn’t always execute the way we should," adding: "We did some things we shouldn’t have and that put us in some situations we didn’t want to be in."
The Buccaneers played essentially an error-free game, as had been expected from the successful Tonkawa program.
"We needed to force them into making mistakes and we didn’t," the Pawhuska coach said.
Dewey was demolished by the Nowata Ironmen, 49-6, in its 2013 opener. Last year, the Bulldoggers scored early and often in a 53-13 week-two triumph at Pawhuska.
"We have got to go out play a complete football game," said Craig. "It’s not enough to just give great effort — we always expect them to do that."