Panthers roll over Langston Hughes, 50-36

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Blue Is For A Broken Heart: Most Barnsdall fans wore blue Friday night in memory of Gracelyn “Gracie” Howell, a 14-year-old student who died as a result of an auto accident Thursday morning. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

BARNSDALL — Barnsdall defeated Langston Hughes, 50-36, Friday night in a hard-played, high-scoring affair. The game ended, however, with 2:02 left on the clock, following an injury to a Langston Hughes player and a tense situation on the field.

Langston Hughes had the ball on what became the last play. The Scholars were attempting to mount a scoring drive, and their ball carrier left the field of play into their sideline. Commotion ensued and game officials tried to sort things out. After a delay of several minutes, the game was called and the Langston Hughes team left the field.

Barnsdall coaches moved their players out of the way of the departing Langston Hughes team, and kept them on the field while the Scholars went to the visitors’ locker room.

Barnsdall coach Kylee Sweeney said a short while later the Langston Hughes runner had been pushed out of bounds cleanly, and had been moving speedily toward a fence that divides the visiting team’s sideline from the bleachers provided for its fans. The runner tried to use the fence to brace himself, but ended up hitting a pole, Sweeney said.

The Langston Hughes sideline had an unhappy reaction to the end of the play, and that led to a situation in which game officials called off the remaining 2:02 of the contest, Sweeney said. He said somberly that it wasn’t a good way for the week to end. What he had in mind was the combined effect of the game ending on a hostile note, and Barnsdall Public Schools having lost a 14-year-old student Thursday morning because of a fatal auto accident.

The Friday game had originally been scheduled for Thursday evening at Langston Hughes. In the aftermath of the fatal traffic accident, Barnsdall students and the broader community were in what Barnsdall Schools Superintendent Jeff Lay said was “a state of extreme sadness,” and the decision was made to postpone the game until Friday in Barnsdall.

Barnsdall fans wore blue Friday evening, mourning the death of 14-year-old Gracelyn “Gracie” Howell. The crowd observed a moment of silence for Gracie, and then joined in a prayer that included the reassuring message that the youngster had gone “to be with Jesus.” Barnsdall cheerleaders wore blue socks and blue ribbons in their hair. Various of the ball players wore blue shoes or blue undershirts with long, blue sleeves. Coaches wore blue jackets.

The occasion was every bit as much solemn and sad in memory of Gracie Howell as it was celebratory in the sense that high school football games tend to offer a community the opportunity to celebrate the vigor and skill of its children.

Barnsdall received the ball first and promptly marched down the field in four plays for a touchdown. The point after was good and the score was 7-0 in favor of the Panthers.

This is the first year Langston Hughes Academy has played football, and the Scholars were off to an 0-4 start before their game with the Panthers. It might sound like the initial-year squad is rather hapless, but that is not the case. Langston Hughes has speedy players at some of the skill positions and the Scholars were giving Barnsdall all it could handle early in the game.

Langston Hughes scored on the kickoff it received following Barnsdall’s opening touchdown, made a two-point conversion and went up, 8-7.

When the Panthers got the ball back, they made a couple of good runs, but then fumbled and Langston Hughes recovered. With 6:48 left in the opening quarter, the Scholars scored on a touchdown pass. The two-point attempt failed and Langston Hughes led Barnsdall, 14-7.

Barnsdall tied it up with 3:22 to go in the first quarter, when Joe Cole hit Wesley Yarber with a touchdown pass to cap an 80-yard drive, most of it on the ground.

Langston Hughes bounced back and scored again as the first quarter ended. After one period, it was 22-14 in favor of the Scholars. With 8:59 left in the second quarter, Joe Cole scored on a keeper and Barnsdall tied the game at 22-22.

Barnsdall scored two more touchdowns in the first half and led, 36-22, at the intermission.

With 7:25 to go in the third quarter, Langston Hughes recovered a Barnsdall fumble. The Scholars scored with 7:14 to go in the quarter and the score was 36-28. The attempt for a two-point conversion failed.

Barnsdall answered, and scored with 5:11 to go in the third quarter. The two-point conversion attempt failed and the Panthers led, 42-28. They lost their starting quarterback for the night, however. Joe Cole took a helmet to one of his knees on the two-point attempt and had to be helped from the field. He spent the rest of the game on the sidelines, much of that time on crutches.

Sweeney said Cole had been examined and appeared to have suffered a relatively minor injury. Sweeney said he thinks Cole will probably be able to play in Barnsdall’s next game.

With Michael Marin in at quarterback, Barnsdall went up 50-28 with 6:37 left. Langston Hughes answered, scoring a touchdown with 5:34 to go and making a two-point conversion, to tighten the score to 50-36.

Barnsdall used its next possession to run time off the clock, but did not score. When the Scholars got the ball back, they needed two touchdowns to avoid defeat. This was the setting when the whole evening tumbled off the rails.

It was in that context that Coach Sweeney observed it wasn’t a good way to end the week.

Barnsdall, now 4-2, has a home game next against 5-0 Morrison.

John Ferguson, of the Barnsdall Police Department, said Monday there had been some damage to the visitors’ dressing facilities Friday night after the game. Ferguson said he understood the two schools would be handling that issue.

Ferguson also confirmed that a juvenile assaulted an off-duty law officer in the midst of some activity following the game, but the officer chose not to pursue the matter legally.