By BEN JOHNSON
Question marks surrounded Tahlequah’s pass-catching conglomerate prior to the start of the 2013 season. When Tyler Eisensmith graduated, curiosity was abound as to who quarterbacks David Dick or Will Carlile would throw to.
The only reasonable response was Kourt McMillan. After all, he was Tahlequah’s top returning pass catcher.
And on Friday night against Fort Gibson, McMillan put some of those receiving quandaries to rest, catching seven passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, he amassed the most receiving yards by a Tahlequah player since Luke Dobbins had 250 against Union in 1998.
“It feels great,” said McMillan, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior. “I mean, to hear something like that, it kind of shows what you can do, and it sets a standard for you to get a higher bar next time you do it.”
It took McMillan and Dick almost a quarter to find a groove. But an 80-yard touchdown strike from Dick to McMillan late in the first quarter put both on the same page the rest of the evening.
“I was excited. I put that ball up in the air and I was pumped,” McMillan said of his long touchdown catch, which actually draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for simply raising the ball above his head.
“I didn’t stop running. I handed the ball to the ref and took off running and tried to get everybody’s spirits pumped up.”
Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert knew what McMillan was capable of, saying it was only a matter of time before McMillan stole the show through the air.
“He’s had the ability,” Gilbert said. “He had a great game, and he displayed that.
“He’s been inconsistent at times in practice, but (Friday night) he shined.”
McMillan — who said his longest touchdown catch prior to playing Fort Gibson was 60 yards — duplicated his 80-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, giving him 185 receiving yards on only four catches. He would also snag a 36-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, which helped the Tigers trim Fort Gibson’s lead to 42-27.
Dick would scored on a 7-yard run less than three minutes later, but it would be Tahlequah’s final score in a 42-33 setback.
The defeat took some luster off of McMillan’s stellar performance, he said.
“We were kind of bummed because we were wanting to win that game,” McMillan said. “I was alright feeling from the receiving, the catches and the touchdowns; I was feeling pretty good with the fans cheering. But we were really hoping to win that game.”
Tahlequah football notebook: Kicker Bryce Patrick out for Tigers’ next game
In the second half of Tahlequah’s 42-33 loss to Fort Gibson in the first week of the season, Tahlequah kicker Bryce Patrick was ejected from the game by the officials.
The sophomore specialist was tangled up with a Fort Gibson player after kicking off and a squabble ensued even after the play was over. The officials separated the two players and later tossed Patrick from the contest.
“(Fort Gibson had) come after the kicker,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said, “and he was ejected.”
By rule, Patrick will now sit out Tahlequah’s game this Friday against Rogers (Ark.).
“He’ll be out a couple of weeks,” Gilbert said. “We’ve worked (quartertback) David (Dick), we have. Now we just need to find a solution for (the Rogers game).”
Penalties aplenty: One thing Tahlequah’s first game of the season didn’t lack was penalties. Tahlequah alone was flagged for 12 penalties for 108 yards.
The officiating crew also called a couple of offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties, which didn’t make their way onto the stat sheet.
“It got sloppy there for a little while,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got to clean that up, bottom line.”
Rogers can run: Tahlequah’s opponent this week, Rogers, is not shy about running the ball. The Mounties picked up 503 yards on the ground in a season-opening, 47-0 victory over Mountain Home (Ark.).