Gutsy win by Huskies at Commerce
Following back-to-back, 200-mile road trip victories, the Pawhuska High School Huskies will return home Friday with an improved outlook on their football playoff future.
The Huskies held off Commerce last week for a key District 2A-8 win which, coupled with a Chelsea loss to Caney Valley, puts PHS in position for a remarkable sixth consecutive postseason appearance. Pawhuska is now 3-4 this season with a 2-1 district record — establishing it as the third-place team behind Nowata and Wyandotte.
Among the 2A-8 foes trailing the Huskies are their Friday opponent, the Oklahoma Union Cougars. The squad from Nowata County is 2-5 overall and, at 1-3, are one of the four one-win teams who trail Pawhuska in the district standings.
While pleased about the recent success of his team, head coach Bob Craig knows that a bad game would put the Huskies right back where they were before Thursday night’s trials-and-tribulations victory over the Tigers.
“We’re really proud of the way the kids responded to the challenges,” said Craig, adding that he was equally proud of the resourcefulness shown by his coaching staff. “We were doing a lot of coaching on the run — but it all worked out OK.”
Leading 19-14 since halftime, PHS held Commerce on downs at the 3-yard line with slightly over three minutes remaining. With 2:12 to play, the Huskies conceded a safety that cut its lead to three points. With a minute and eight seconds left in the game, Warren Graves sealed the road victory by blocking a 22-yard field-goal attempt by the Tigers.
Aside from the 19-16 final score, numbers didn’t begin to tell the tale of Pawhuska’s heart-stopping triumph at Commerce.
In the District 2A-8 battle, the Tigers put up nearly 300 combined running-and-passing yards, compared to 148 for the Huskies. The host squad controlled the ball for more than 31 minutes, which almost doubled PHS’s possession time. Commerce also committed no turnovers, although neither did Pawhuska. (Both teams did recover several of their own fumbles, however.)
A gridiron version of Newton’s third law may explain the game’s final outcome: For every positive action of the Tigers, there was an equal or superior reaction by the Huskies. Pawhuska also played hard-nosed defense in the most critical situations. Plus, there were two game-altering touchdowns by Javellas, the rapidly-inclined PHS senior.
Fourteen seconds after Commerce had scored a TD on its initial possession, Javellas crossed the goalline after a lightening-bolt kickoff return 90 yards down the visiting team’s sideline. Sophomore Caleb Bruce tied the game at 7-7 with the point-after kick. Then, following a mishandled snap on a Tigers’ punt, Pawhuska drove 32 yards in seven plays to go in front, 13-7, on a two-yard TD plunge by Bruce with 3:41 left in the opening quarter. The ball was snapped over the head of the Huskie punter on Pawhuska’s next possession, however, and Commerce launched an 18-yard scoring drive that gave it back the lead, at 14-13, with nine minutes to play before halftime.
In order to capture its second straight road win, the Huskie squad had to overcome a mountain of adversity involving illness, injuries and a player suspension. Pawhuska was still trailing on the scoreboard when two starters — quarterback Colton Hindman and lineman Trey Powell — were knocked out of the contest in the closing minutes of the first half. Five plays after being moved to QB and 18 seconds before the break, Bruce connected with Javellas for a 37-yard touchdown that gave PHS a 19-14 edge. The play came on a fourth-down-and-eight call when Bruce lofted a pass down the middle to a closely-covered Javellas, who reeled the ball in at the 15 and outraced defenders in for the score.
Pawhuska succeeded in slowing down the pace in the second half and neither team’s offense was able to score. Several extraordinary efforts helped the Huskies maintain their slim lead. On the final play of the third period, another snap sailed over the head of John Bighorse, the PHS punter. Bighorse chased the ball down near the Huskie 35-yard line and succeeded in uncorking a punt that rolled to a stop at the Commerce 17. The Tigers then embarked on an 8 1/2-minute march that took them nearly to the goal line. On a fourth-down play with less than four minutes remaining, the Commerce receiver caught a pass inside the 5-yard line but was stopped short of the goal line by Javellas and Huskie teammate Levi Youngwolfe.
The Huskie offense was struggling to find breathing room while trying to run out the clock when it fumbled near the middle of the end zone. Sweeping from right to left, Javellas scooped up the loose ball and carried it to the 1-yard line. PHS coaches then decided to give up the safety rather than risk the possible consequences of a fourth-down punt attempt. QB Bruce scrambled to let the clock down before exiting the back of the end zone, which made it a three-point contest (19-16).
Bighorse boomed the resulting free kick to the 50-yard line, where the Tigers took possession with 2:12 remaining. Commerce ran six plays, which included a 27-yard completed pass, before setting up for a potential game-tying field goal with 1:15 left in regulation. Sophomore Graves, another of the PHS speed demons, came flying across from the left corner to block the kick. He got both hands on the ball and drove it into the turf near the Pawhuska 31-yard line. The Huskies ran the final minute off the clock with a pair of kneel-downs.
Game statistics showed the Tigers with a major advantage in every offensive category except points scored, of course, and return yardage (where the Huskie numbers were buoyed by the long kickoff return of Javellas). Commerce failed to get points off its longest drive of each half, as the Pawhuska defense bent but seldom broke. Leading 14-13 with less than two minutes to play before halftime, a Tiger punt ended a 15-play, six-minute possession. On the second play of that drive, Powell was injured by an illegal chop block. (It is hoped that Powell — a 6-2, 235-pound senior — will be able return to the field for the Huskies.)
A few minutes after Powell’s exit, a roughing-the-passer penalty was called against the Tigers on the play that knocked Hindman from the game. Although he had sustained a broken collarbone, the sophomore quarterback remained in the game until it became apparent to coaches that his injury was serious.
“That showed a lot, to stay in there for three more plays with a broken clavicle,” the coach said about Hindman.
Two plays after being moved from running back to QB, Bruce connected with Javellas for what proved to be the winning TD.
Pawhuska : 13 - 6 - 0 - 0 — 19
Commerce : 7 - 7 - 0 - 2 — 16
C — Mitchell Johnston 42-yard pass from Jacob Pittman (Nate Rogers kick), 8:10
P — Hayden Javellas 90-yard kickoff return (Caleb Bruce kick), 7:56
P — Caleb Bruce 2-yard run (kick fail), 3:41
C — Chandler Wilson 4-yard run (Rogers kick), 9:19
P — Javellas 37-yard pass from Bruce (kick fail), :18
C — Safety. Pawhuska run out of bounds in end zone, 2:12
1st downs: Pawhuska 10, Commerce 16
Rushes-yds: P 25-minus 8, C 42-138
Passing yards: P 71, C 154
Comps-atts-int: P 6-16-0, C 14-31-0
Fumbles lost: P 0, C 0
Punts-avg: P 4-33, C 2-31
Returns yds: P 135, C 12
Penalties-yds: P 8-80, C 12-115
Commerce Tigers (1-6, 1-3) — RUSHING: Chandler Wilson 13 carries for 73 yds and 1 TD, Trenton Barr 16-37, Jacob Pittman 11-22, Connor Kurtz 1-minus 2, Mitchell Johnston 1-8. PASSING: Jacob Pittman 14 completions out of 31 attempts for 154 yds and 1 TD. RECEIVING: Connor Kurtz 5 catches for 57 yds, Mitchell Johnston 2-55-1 TD, Trenton Barr 4-28, Tyler Estep 1-6, Hawk Johnston 1-2, Brooks Stevenson 1-6.
Pawhuska Huskies (3-4, 2-1) — RUSHING: Brian Jeffers 2 carries for 21 yds, John Bighorse 6-minus 3, Caleb Bruce 13-minus 8-1 TD, Colton Hindman 3-minus 10, Hayden Javellas 1-minus 8. PASSING: Caleb Bruce 4 completions in 6 attempts for 65 yds and 1 TD, Colton Hindman 2-10-6. RECEIVING: Warren Graves 2 catches for 18 yds, Hayden Javellas 1-37-1 TD, Brian Jeffers 1-4, Trey RedEagle 1-2, Mathew Taft 1-10.