Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

October 19, 2012

Playoff dreams dashed

Tahlequah’s postseason aspirations dashed in blowout loss at Pryor.

PRYOR — Four minutes, 23 seconds.

That was all the time Pryor needed to pull ahead of Tahlequah en route to 40-13 win Thursday night in District 5A-4.

Tahlequah (1-7, 1-4 District 5A-4) struck first, with a four-minute scoring drive off of the opening possession, leading to a 21-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback David Dick. A blocked point-after attempt put Tahlequah ahead 6-0.

The momentum even seemed to stay on Tahlequah’s side after kicking off, as the Pryor offense was called for holding on first down. The momentum took off on second-and-23, though, as Pryor sophomore Brennan Barth ran 83 yards for a touchdown. Pryor kicker Dillan McDowell connected on the point-after attempt and the Tigers from Mayes County took a 7-6 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Tahlequah sustained a 13-play drive deep into Pryor territory. On play No. 14, Dick attempted his first pass of the night and was intercepted by Barth at the 10-yard line and could not stop him as Pryor went up 13-6 before the end of the first quarter.

“This was a rough one,” coach Brad Gilbert said. “But our boys again showed a lot of character tonight.”

Despite limiting to Pryor to 79 total rushing yards, the Tahlequah defense could not keep Class 5A’s leading rusher out of the endzone. Pryor senior running back Connor Smallwood, who had already amassed more than 1,150 yards coming into Thursday night’s game and averaged almost eight yards per carry, scored four touchdowns, including two in the second quarter to turn a 13-6 game into a blowout in the making by halftime.

Mason McMillan had Tahlequah’s other score of the night, a 2-yard run late in the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided.

After playing extensively at quarterback during last week’s 20-15 loss at Central, sophomore backup Will Carlile only attempted one pass all night long, an incomplete toss in the first half.

“David is doing well and we decided to stick with him,” Gilbert said. “However, there’s a pretty good chance Will will see some time under center next week vs. East Central.”

Starters Alex Rice and Tyler Eisensmith, who sat out the Week 7 loss at Central due to injuries, returned to limited action Thursday night.

With the loss, Tahlequah remains in sole possession of seventh place in District 5A-4. The defeat extends two streaks that the Tahlequah Tigers would love to break: road losses and number of years left out of the postseason. Tahlequah, which has lost nine straight on the road, has not played a postseason football game in a decade — and won’t again this year.

“Yes, this knocks us out of playoff contention, but we’ve got a great group of guys and shouldn’t have any problem motivating them,” Gilbert said. “They’re working hard day in and day out to build this program up and they understand that it takes more than just one game or one practice to make that happen.”

Tahlequah will look to play spoiler next weekend, as they come back to Doc Wadley Stadium next week as they take on the No. 5 East Central Cardinals (4-4, 4-1) in their final home game. Pryor (4-4, 3-2) plays at Collinsville (6-2, 3-2).

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