Tahlequah Daily Press

High School Sports

October 28, 2012

Cougars beat Jay to clinch playoff spot

JAY — More than just the temperature dropped in Jay Friday night. Penalty flags, incompletions and fumbles created a nightmare for both Keys Cougars and Jay Bulldogs six days before Halloween.

The Bulldogs marched down the field on their first drive of the game. But it took them another four minutes to score the first touchdown of the game, on a 3-yard run.

On Keys’ first drive, junior Cody Cole ran the ball for 22 yards to help set up a 35-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Trevor Eubanks. With 5:25 left in the first quarter, the game was tied at seven points.

Jay’s next drive was not as smooth as their first, getting short yard gains followed by penalties. After penalties set them way back, they attempted to go big with a 25-yard pass that fell incomplete. The drive ended in a punt.

A promising start to the Keys next drive ended badly. Eubanks threw a 40-yard pass to senior Matt Morrison to the 22-yard line with 2:22 left in the quarter. After an incomplete pass to the end zone — trying to capitalize on the momentum — it was penalties and sloppy play that caused the game to get very strange for a while.

A false start by Keys set then back to a second-and-20. The ensuing play was busted up by the Jay defense and Eubanks was chased back 30 yards before throwing it out of bounds. This led to an intentional grounding penalty which made it third-and-48 yards to get a first down. Another false start on a pass play made it fourth-and-36.

“Every offensive lineman in the world holds,” Keys coach Gary Willis said. “They were just calling it tonight.”

The second quarter was delayed several minutes due to a malfunctioning scoreboard, leaving players standing in formation. Shortly after the delay, the Bulldogs offense marched down the field again and scored on a 2-yard touchdown run.

This is where things get strange again.

The Bulldogs kicked the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff and penalty flags hit the ground. The officials called penalties on both teams, and after a conference decide that Jay should retry the kick, this time from the 50-yard line. Then, another bad kick went out of bounds, putting the ball on the Keys’ 25-yard line.

“It was kind of a freaky play,” Willis said. “We had a late hit out of bounds. You had to penalize Jay for a live-ball foul and ours was a dead-ball foul. The refs were correct on it.”

Eubanks started the drive with a 24-yard pass. Cole capped off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 5:39 left in the half.

Jay could not handle the ensuing kick return and Keys recovered the ball on the Jay 5-yard line. Keys could not capitalize, though, and the halftime score was 14-all.

The second half started with a bang in Keys’ favor and would not stop. After getting the ball on their own 9-yard line, Cole made a 91-yard touchdown run, giving Keys their first lead of the game, 21-14.

Keys’ Tyler Blankeship recovered a Jay fumble on the very next series, and Keys had the ball on the Jay 41. Another penalty pushed the Cougars back to a second-and-25 and Keys eventually had to punt the ball away.

With 6:30 left in the third quarter, keys intercepted a pass on the Jay 20-yard line. A short run into the end zone by Cole made it 28-14 Keys.

On the next drive, Keys’ defense recovered a Jay fumble. A pass to Blankenship made it a 35-14 lead for Keys.

At that point, Keys offense had 21 unanswered points in the third quarter.

“They were going to step up and stop the run; you go in at halftime and make decisions,” said Willis. “They were bringing it inside, so we started running outside and throwing it more. We hit a couple of passes.”

After a couple of interceptions that led to no points and penalties, Jay finally got another touchdown with 7:35 left in the game. A missed PAT made the score 35-20 in favor of Keys.

The ensuing kickoff was an onside attempt. After several Jay players had their hands on the ball, Keys recovered.

With the victory, Keys earned a spot in the Class 3A playoffs. The Keys Cougars will be at Locust Grove on Friday night.

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