Edwards’ final prep appearance an All-State winner

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Edwards’ final prep appearance an All-State winner

BIXBY — Former Pawhuska Huskie Zalin Edwards showed, once again, that he is one of the best prep football players in the state.

In Friday night’s 77th-annual Oklahoma All-State Football Game, Edwards helped the East All-State team post a 23-14 victory — snapping a four-year West winning streak.

After running for 10 touchdowns and passing for 11 as last year’s senior quarterback of the Huskies, Edwards was pressed into service at his other regular starting possession — defensive back — for the All-State Game.

It had been hoped that another recently-graduated Pawhuska star, Bryce Wilson, might be included for the prestigious contest. According to PHS head coach Bob Craig, an executive officer of the sponsoring Oklahoma Coaches Association, no open spots developed on the East squad for a wide receiver —which is Wilson’s primary position.

“It’s a shame, but that’s just the way it worked out,” the veteran coach said. “Some years, there’s a shortage of receivers and other times, it’s quarterbacks or some other position.”

The multi-talented Edwards was one of several late additions to the Friday rosters who proved to be as good — or better — than the regular All-State selections. The 5-10, 170-pounder — who won a Class A state championship at Woodland High School before transferring to PHS in 2011 — was all over the Bixby High School field as he defensed passes and chased down West runners.

Edwards also received a $500 scholarship as the Oklahoma Coaches Association Region 2 “Male Athlete of the Year.” He was among 39 male and female recipients in the OCA’s $30,000 scholar/athlete program. Another of the Region 2 honorees was Pawnee’s Marlon Houston, Jr., who went to Barnsdall for his freshman and sophomore years.

There was hardly a cloud was in the sky when lightning struck Friday night, three minutes into the second half of the Friday night contest. The East All-Staters were holding a tenuous nine-point advantage when Hilldale quarterback Chandler Puckett flipped a short pass at midfield to Bartlesville wideout Slade Nordic.

For about the next 10 seconds, the former Bruin electrified the estimated crowd of 4,000 by transforming into a 6-1, 185-pound lightning bolt. He zigged in and zagged out while running at, around, through and finally away from the red-jerseyed, would-be tacklers.

Nordic’s 49-yard touchdown gave his team a 23-7 lead and some breathing room. Edwards and the stingy, bend-but-don’t-break defensive unit of the East did the rest. East QBs Puckett and Zach Cater of Durant combined to pass for 305 yards and two TDs while completing 20 of 28 aerial attempts. The runners for the East gained 72 yards in 12 carries.

Meanwhile, the West offense was racking up 179 yards on 28 rushes and hitting seven of 18 passes for 60 yards.

With its 23-14 final victory, the East snapped a four-year losing streak in the annual summer exhibition. The West squad won the last year’s All-State Game, 37-7, and posted a 33-19 triumph in 2012.

Former Hominy Buck offensive lineman Jason Bradfore and Nowata defensive lineman Skylar Wood also contributed to the East team’s success.

The resilient East defenders survived the contest by hustling to meet the multiple offensive challenges posed by the West, which scored one touchdown in each half on runs by Blanchard’s Braden Stringer — who also was a late roster addition.

En route to earning game MVP honors, Cater put the East in front on a one-yard plunge to cap it’s first offensive series with 4:23 left in the opening quarter. Early in the second period, Cater — another replacement All-Stater — moved the East from its own four-yard line to set up a 29-yard field goal by Sallisaw Central’s Blake Pearce.

Stringer’s initial TD came with just over two minutes remaining before halftime and cut the East lead to 10-7. The fire-plug runner crashed across from five yards out seconds after a punt block/recovery by Gatlin Squires of Kingfisher.

It only took Carter a minute and 10 seconds to direct the blue-shirted East squad on an 80-yard drive that ended with his 38-yard pass to Broken Arrow’s Austin Reed in the end zone. A blocked extra point left the score at 16-7 going into intermission. (During the break, Summer Post of Bixby was crowned as All-State Game Queen by Pawhuska’s coach Craig, who is the incoming OCA president.) The second touchdown by Stringer was a 45-yard dash with less than a minute remaining.

Held annually since 1942, the All-State Football Game is sponsored by the Oklahoma Coaches Association during its annual summer convention and coaches clinics.

This year’s football exhibition, which was played under ideal weather conditions, concluded week-long competitions featuring the state’s best athletes from the recently-graduated Class of 2014. Other OCA events were held around the Tulsa area for baseball, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, tennis, golf and swimming.