By BEN JOHNSON
Don’t be surprised if Pryor and Claremore fans are sporting a little bit of black and orange tonight. That’s for all the scoreboard watching they’ll be doing.
The Halloween colors will be in honor of Tahlequah, which will likely gain a few Pryor and Claremore fans during the final week of the regular season. That’s because both Pryor and Claremore stand to benefit from Tahlequah, if the Tigers can knock off Class 5A No. 9 Collinsville tonight at Doc Wadley Stadium.
Tahlequah’s postseason dreams have been dashed, so the Tigers’ last resort is to try and ruin Collinsville’s aspirations of a District 5A-4 championship.
So, no pressure. Right, Brad Gilbert?
“We don’t have any pressure,” Tahlequah’s head coach said. “We just want to send our seniors off on a winning note.”
If Tahlequah (1-8, 1-5 District 5A-4) picks up its second win of the season, Pryor would be the 5A-4 champion with a victory over East Central. Claremore would also bump up to the No. 2 spot, if it could knock off Grove.
Gilbert broke down the district standings for his team at practice this week.
“I told them,” Gilbert said, “’I don’t care who wins the district as long as it’s not Collinsville.’”
Of course that would mean Tahlequah is able to overcome a Cardinals (7-2, 5-1) team that hasn’t lost since Week 4 (42-38 against Claremore). Collinsville has won five straight games, thanks to Zane McElroy’s return at quarterback.
“Their quarterback came back three weeks ago and he makes a big difference,” Gilbert said of McElroy. “He’s a good football player.”
While a win would send the Tigers into the offseason feeling pretty good, it would also be harsh reality knowing that the playoffs were an obtainable goal for much of the season.
“That was our goal, and I thought we’d be at that point where we could compete for a playoff spot,” said Gilbert, whose club lost to Central and East Central by a combined three points in district play.
“We closed the gap, but we just didn’t close it enough. We would like to be playing for the playoffs, but there have been too many missed opportunities.”
Collinsville at Tahlequah
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Doc Wadley Stadium.
Radio: KEOK, FM-102.1.
Nicknames: Tahlequah Tigers; Collinsville Cardinals.
Coaches: Tahlequah - Brad Gilbert (2-17); Collinsville - Kevin Jones (third season, 22-18).
Records: Tahlequah 1-8 (1-5 District 5A-4); Collinsville 7-2 (5-1).
Rankings: Tahlequah is not ranked in Class 5A; Collinsville is No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press’ prep poll in Class 5A.
Series record: Collinsville leads Tahlequah 1-0.
Last meeting: In 2012, Collinsville beat Tahlequah 40-21. The Cardinals turned a 7-7 tie at halftime into a 28-7 game at the end of the third quarter, thanks to two touchdown passes by Derek Iannopollo.
Last week: East Central 28, Tahlequah 27; Collinsville 20, Pryor 19.
News to know: Collinsville can clinch the District 5A-4 title with a win over Tahlequah. ... The Tigers have been eliminated from postseason contention. ... Tahlequah quarterback David Dick could eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and passing against Collinsville. Through nine games this year, Dick has 848 rushing yards and 949 passing yards.
Players to watch
Tahlequah: Kourt McMillan (WR).
- McMillan has 29 catches for 529 yards and six touchdowns this season. However, seven catches, 235 yards and three touchdown grabs came in the first week of the season against Fort Gibson. Against Collinsville, McMillan will have to deal with cornerback T.J. Johnson, who had a interception for a touchdown last week against Pryor.
Collinsville: Zane McElroy (QB).
- The Cardinals’ signal caller missed the majority of the regular season while recovering from an injury, but he has now rushed 63 times for 326 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Last week against Pryor, he threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Cook and also ran for a 1-yard scoring run.
Looking ahead: Collinsville will compete in the first round of the 5A playoffs on Nov. 15. Tahlequah will have to wait until 2014 to play another game.