By BEN JOHNSON
Charles Lamons had a feeling it was going to be a good night in Grove last week. The Tahlequah senior offensive right guard’s premonition came to fruition rather quickly, too.
“We pretty much manhandled them from the beginning,” he said.
Lamons certainly wasn’t overstating the case, either.
The Tigers amassed an eye-popping 521 yards and six touchdowns on 49 rushing attempts in a 47-20 victory at Ridgerunner Stadium. Tahlequah even had three ball carriers finish with more than 100 yards — David Dick (201), Brandon Conrad (160) and Colton Wright (127).
The last time Tahlequah had three separate players rush for at least 100 yards apiece was 1991 when Damon Talbert, Chad Hendricks and Chris Miller pulled off the feat.
Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert knows the accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible against Grove without plenty of help from the guys up front.
“Best performance to date,” Gilbert said of his offensive line. “We knew going in that we had the opportunity to dominate the line of scrimmage, and (the offensive line) did that. They did what we asked them to do.”
Tahlequah’s senior left tackle Eric Garcia said the key to success against Grove was countering against the Ridgerunners’ blitz schemes.
“The fact that they blitz a lot,” he said, “we knew that we could gash them all day long.”
The Tigers wound end up scoring on running plays of 24 yards or more five times. Again, the key was blocking Grove’s extra defenders at the line of scrimmage.
“We knew if we picked up the blitzes right,” Lamons said, “we knew we could hit them hard with that.”
The Grove game wasn’t Tahlequah’s only successful game on the offensive side of the ball. The Tigers rushed for 334 yards at Sallisaw, and they passed for 276 yards against Fort Gibson. In both games, Tahlequah had more than 400 yards of total offense.
“It has a lot to do with experience,” Gilbert said. “Look at Charlie Lamons and Eric Garcia; both of have more than 20 games under their belt. It’s also their second year in the system, so they know the system.”
Adding help up front for the Tigers has been Wesley Rivas (left guard), Cole Wilkie (center and left guard), Mason McGee (center) and Noah Hogan.
“Those guys have helped a lot this year,” Gilbert said. “They went out and really dominated [at Grove], and that gave everyone a lot of confidence.”
Tahlequah’s road victory snapped a three-game losing streak and moved the Tigers to 1-0 in District 5A-4. Tahlequah will face Claremore (3-1, 1-0 5A-4) tonight at Doc Wadley Stadium at 7.
“We have four more district home games left, so the opportunity to get into the playoffs is there,” Gilbert said. “And (the players) know that. We just have to go out and perform against Claremore this week.”
Adding further analysis on the Zebras, Gilbert said, “they were the preseason favorite to win the district, so that presents a great opportunity.”
A carbon copy of the Grove game by Tahlequah’s offensive line could be what Tahlequah needs to be a two-win team in district play.