Tahlequah Daily Press


September 10, 2012

Wet and weary

Warner scores late to get past Hulbert on a wet night in Week 2.

HULBERT — Hobbling around on a gimpy leg for most of the game, Chris Vance nearly willed Hulbert past Warner on Friday night.

Yet, when Vance’s final throw of the night ended up in hands of Warner defensive back, Justin Wright, suddenly Vance’s bum ankle throbbed a little bit more.

In the end, it was Warner 26, Hulbert 19, in front 500 soaked fans that stuck around all night at Rider Field.

“It was a good game,” Hulbert coach Mitchell Crittenden said. “...We fought the whole way. If we had won, I wouldn’t have been more proud of them then I am right now.”

Warner scored the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds left, when Wright ran in backwards from a yard out. Anthony Carney’s pass to Mekko Washington on the two-point conversion made it a seven-point game before Hulbert made one last-ditched effort at a comeback.

The Riders threatened in the closing seconds by getting into Warner territory, but Vance’s errant throw with 10 seconds remaining doomed the Riders.

“I had seen the ball, so I told myself, ‘I have to make a play here,’” Wright recalled. He continued on, describing how he went horizontal to the ground to pick the pass off: “Normally, they’ll call that an incomplete pass, so I just tried to do my best to keep the ball off the ground.”

Hulbert appeared destined to begin the season with a two-game winning streak when it took the lead with 4:02 to play. Running back and reserve quarterback, Brandon Thompson, found his way into the end zone on a 12-yard scoring run to tie the game at 18. Kicker Craig Potts then followed with his first point-after attempt, which split the uprights and gave the Riders a 19-18 edge.

“I wish we hadn’t scored so fast now,” said Crittenden, whose team kept its drive alive long enough to score a touchdown when Vance connected with Spenser Frye on a 22-yard pass on fourth-and-2 on the Warner 34.

“Wish we could have taken about another two and a half minutes off the clock on that drive.”

Down late in the game, Warner didn’t panic.

The Eagles marched 59 yards on nine plays — in 3 minutes, 17 seconds — to recapture the lead.

“We work two-minute drill every Thursday [at practice],” Warner coach Chris McMullen said. “We work the sidelines with a senior-dominated team. These guys have been playing since they’re freshmen and sophomores, so they’re experienced and didn’t panic. They kept the poise and executed.”

Setting up Wright’s scoring run was Carney’s 11-yard pass to Clint Kite, which got the Eagles down to the 1-yard line. Prior to that, Wright hauled in a 21-yard fling from Carney to get Warner inside the red zone.

“He makes clutch play after clutch play,” McMullen said of Wright, who finished the game with two catches for 32 yards and nine rushes for 32 yards and a touchdown. “He made a big first-down catch (on the 21-yard pass near the sidelines). Then, he gets the pick to end the potential game-winning drive.”

Warner logged 311 yards of total offense in the game. The Eagles ran the ball 42 times for 151 yards with seven different call carriers. Kite led Warner with 59 yards on eight carries, while Carney had 160 yards on 10 of 13 passing.

The Eagles’ 16-12 halftime lead swelled to 18-12 early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a botched punt attempt on Hulbert’s part. Standing in his own end zone, Potts punted the ball low and it deflected off a lineman out of bounds for a safety.

It was the first score of the second half after a scoreless third quarter, which still ended up being eventful. Only a couple of plays into the second half, lightning struck near the field, sparking a 28-minute delay.

After a cold front moved through earlier Friday afternoon, bringing with it a strong line of thunderstorms, the first half was played with lightning on the horizon. Yet, there were no stoppages of play, despite a couple of brief periods of heavy rain in the first half.

Hulbert’s initial punch to the gut came in early in the second quarter, when Vance limped to the home sidelines with an ankle injury. But the senior signal caller got his ankle retapped and continued on.

“It hurt me bad and hurt him bad, too,” Crittenden said of Vance. “He said, ‘I’m still playing,’ and I said, ‘I know you are.’ He’s ultra competitive.

“Live I’ve said before, [in the past] I’ve had other guys that maybe have more talent than he does, but there’s not anybody that I’ve coached that has more competitiveness than him. Even when he’s hurt, he’s out there.”

Vance led the Riders in rushing with 63 yards on 13 carries. He also completed 5 of 11 passes for 92 yards.

As a team, the Riders racked up 117 rushing yards on 35 carries while amassing 209 yards of total offense.

Hulbert (1-1) took its first lead of the night when Vance connected with Damien Garza for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Vance found Garza over the middle, where he crossed the goal line untouched.

Warner went back on top late in the second quarter when Carney snuck across the goal line on a 1-yard run. The Eagles, after drawing a personal-foul penalty on their first attempt, succeeded on their second try at two points, when Carney found Kyle Taylor, who eluded three tackles to sneak inside the pylon.

Both clubs started the game with long scoring drives.

The Eagles churned out 78 yards on nine plays, capped off by a 3-yard scoring run by Carney. The Warner quarterback then found Briar Campbell for a two-point conversion.

Hulbert came back with a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Vance scoring on a 7-yard scamper. The Riders, though, came up short on the two-point conversion to trail by two.

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