Huskies fall to Pawnee, 46-40, in district title clash

Robert Smith
Pawhuska senior Easton Kirk waits to be recognized during Senior Night activities Friday. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

The Pawhuska Huskies rallied in the second half Friday, scoring 34 points in a valiant attempt to overcome a calamitous first half, but the dream of a district championship slipped from their grasp as the final seconds drained from the clock at Ormond Beach Stadium.

It was Senior Night and the Huskies came in 9-0, having given up no more than 18 points to any opponent this season. They had allowed a total of 19 points in their previous four games. The home stands were packed with excited fans, many of whom brought their blankets for what promised to be a cool November night.

The pregame pageantry was memorable, with Pawhuska honoring its seniors and paying tribute to Veterans Day. The Huskies took the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown with 9:20 left in the opening quarter. Senior receiver Cade McNeil caught a scoring pass from Pawhuska quarterback Bryce Drummond — the first of three touchdown connections between those two for the evening — and Pawhuska was up 6-0 after the two-point attempt failed.

Then the first half went off the rails. The 9-0 Pawnee Black Bears scored on their first possession to tie the game at 6-6 with 4:07 to go in the first quarter. Pawhuska was unable to mount a scoring drive and kicked the ball to Pawnee with 1:46 to go in the opening quarter; and the Black Bears once again unleashed a power running attack that Pawhuska struggled throughout the game to stop. Pawnee’s Trevor Mitchell scored on a run of about 65 yards with less than a second (.4 seconds) left in the quarter. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful and Pawnee went up 12-6.

Pawhuska was again unable to put together a scoring drive, and it kicked to Pawnee, which started at about its 30 or 31 yard line with 10:57 to go in the second quarter. The Huskies were finally able to force a punt by the Black Bears and it appeared Pawhuska might have a chance to regain its offensive momentum. Instead, Drummond overthrew a pass intended for Cade McNeil and Trevor Mitchell snagged it for Pawnee and ran it back to the Huskies’ three. With 8:31 to go in the opening half, the score was 20-6 for Pawnee and by halftime the count was 28-6.

A stunned hometown crowd did its best to enjoy a full halftime program, featuring cheerleaders and the band, but the beginning of the third quarter offered the fans no relief. Pawnee took the opening kickoff of the second half and began to grind out the running yards. They moved from just shy of their own 25 to about the Pawhuska 45 before Trevor Mitchell ran it the rest of the way in a single chunk to bring the score to 34-6 for Pawnee.

On the following possession, the Huskies looked like they would again be unable to move the ball. Finally, in what appeared to be a moment of sheer desperation, on fourth down and 20, Drummond hurled a pass that f0und the hands of Dalton Hurd and resulted in a first down. On the next play, Drummond found McNeil for six and the score was 34-12. The Huskies’ fans roared and the rally began.

Pawhuska’s defense stiffened and forced the Black Bears to punt — a short kick that gave Pawhuska the ball at the Pawnee 38. Drummond again found Cade McNeil for a touchdown, the two-point conversion was good and the score was 34-20.

The Huskies again stopped Pawnee and took the ball with 2:17 left in the third quarter. Pawhuska was moving deep into Pawnee territory, but a Drummond pass was intercepted and that stopped the drive. The Huskies forced a punt and began their next possession at the Pawnee 41. Drummond scored on a quarterback keeper with 11:04 left in the game, the two-point attempt was unsuccessful and the score was 34-26.

The Pawhuska comeback was in full swing, but Pawnee countered with another score with 7:57 left and made it 40-26. The Huskies gamely gave chase, but they were unable to put a lid on Pawnee’s running game and the final count was Pawnee 46, Pawhuska 40.

Drummond finished the game with 82 yards rushing and three touchdowns, as well as 332 yards passing and three touchdowns. McNeil was the leading receiver with 9 catches for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Dalton Hurd had five catches for 65 yards, and Kevin Davis has five catches for 60 yards.

The Huskies, now 9-1, are scheduled for a home playoff game Friday versus Oklahoma Union.