Tahlequah Daily Press


September 23, 2012

Mason makes it happen

Tahlequah rides Mason McMillan to 5A-4 victory over Grove.

Mason McMillan had the Grove game circled on his calendar before the season even started. He can now circle the game against the Ridgerunners for a whole different reason.

His gaudy statistics.

McMillan rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries as Tahlequah held off Grove, 35-20, at Doc Wadley Stadium on Friday night.

“The O-line blocked great, so I could make plays,” McMillan said. “I was pretty happy.”

McMillan was one of four Tahlqeuah players to find the end zone, as the Tigers won their district opener for the first time in four years.

“That’s big for us, because we know this: our goal is the playoffs,” Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert said. “And we said it takes four (wins) to get in. We know it’s going to be an extremely difficult road, but starting out 1-0 is always better than starting off 0-1 in district play.”

In front of 3,000 fans, McMillan put the Tigers (1-3, 1-0 District 5A-4) out in front early on a 39-yard scoring run on the Tahlequah’s second possession. He also put the game on ice with a 10-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left.

“Mason McMillan, again, we’re going to ride him,” Gilbert said of McMillan. “He’s a workhorse who wants the football. That speaks highly of our guys up front, too.”

McMillan’s final touchdown of the night capped off a nine-play, 47-yard drive that allowed the Tigers to all but run out the clock. Along the way, McMillan picked up a crucial yardage on third-and-1 and fourth-and-2 to keep the drive alive. On third-and-1, McMillan gained just enough to pick up a first down, and the 10-yard scoring run came on fourth-and-2.

“That says a lot about our preparation,” said McMillan, who rushed the ball on eight of the nine plays on the Tigers’ final drive. “Just about everyone on the O-line, and pretty much everyone that starts even, came up this summer and we worked on endurance and strength. And a lot went into those two plays.”

Tahlequah was forced to put together a deceive drive after Grove got within a touchdown with 5:16 to play.

The Ridgerunners (1-3, 0-1) cut the Tigers’ lead to 28-20 when quarterback Jake Spychalski tossed a shovel pass to Benny Steffenson, who navigated 30 yards for a touchdown.

“Our kids never gave up, tried to give it some good effort, and can’t fault them on that,” said Grove coach Dennis Millican, whose team also scored a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when Spychalski threw a 7-yard pass to Clayton Honeycutt.

“That’s just a game, where both teams are fairly-well matched up, you can’t mistakes.”

Grove’s scores in the second half came after a mostly-forgettable first half for the Ridgerunners.

Credit Tahlequah for that.

After McMillan’s opening touchdown, Grove responded with an 11-play, 72-yard drive, which ended when Spychalski scored on a 1-yard keeper. However, Grove kicker Anthony Krause missed the extra point, and it was down hill from there for the Ridgerunners.

Tahlequah would reel off 21 unanswered points to claim a 28-6 halftime edge.

For the fourth time this season, Tahlequah quarterback David Dick hit Tyler Eisensmith for a passing touchdown — this one, a 22-yard pass, coming with 10:28 left in the second quarter.

Then, with Tahlequah owning a 14-6 lead, Grove marched 77 yards on 12 plays, only to have its drive halted on the Tigers’ 3-yard line. On fourth down, Tahlequah’s Hestin Lamons intercepted Spychalski to thwart Grove’s scoring chance.

“That’s big momentum shift and a big swing there,” said Millican, whose team was led offensively by Spychalski’s 269 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Three plays later, Tahlequah was in the end zone again. Brandon Conrad, following a 52-yard run by McMillan, carried the ball 35 yards up the middle of the field for another Tahlequah score.

Tahlequah would capitalized on one more Grove turnover before the end of the half, when the Tigers recovered a fumble on a botched hook-and-ladder play by Grove’s Matt Jeffries.

Again, Tahlequah only needed three plays, with its fourth touchdown of the opening half going to Kourtland McMillan, who caught a 28-yard pass from Dick.

“We do a decent job of getting guy opportunities to create things,” Gilbert said. “...It’s all set up with what we’re able to do with Mason and those guys up front.”

In the end, Grove turned the ball over to Tahlequah six times (four interceptions and two fumbles lost).

“Busted assignments, mistakes, mental mistakes, physical mistakes,” Millican said when asked about his team’s high quantity of turnovers. “Obviously, the Tigers did some things to put us in that position.”

Tahlequah’s last district-opening win came in a 34-0 rout of Stilwell in 2008. Now, the Tigers are tied atop the 5A-4 standings with Coweta, East Central and Claremore — whom the Tigers will play next week at Lantow Field.

So, Caleb Morton — who came up with a sack and a forced fumble of Spychalski in the second half — what more could Tahlequah ask for in district play?

“2-0,” Morton said.

Text Only
  • Hooper.jpg Sparking the flame

    Sequoyah High School’s Justin Hooper looking to lead this year

    Last season was Justin’s last chance to play alongside Cody at Sequoyah High School.
    Justin had to battle to win the Indians starting tailback. The coaching staff did not know who was going to be the Indians starting running back coming into fall practice.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • NSU-fishing-team.jpg NSU teams compete in fishing tournament

    Three teams from Northeastern State University’s Bass Fishing Team competed in the Fishing League Worldwide College Fishing Tournament on Grand Lake in Grove on Saturday, June 21.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Johnson, East win easily at All-State

    Jake Johnson was able to hold off Lawton MacArthur’s Trent Meisel at the Class 5A state tournament in May. On Monday at the All-State tournament at Cherokee Hills Golf Club, Johnson had it much easier against Meisel.

    July 29, 2014

  • McMillan-blackboard.jpg Hometown brothers team up for RiverHawks football

    Northeastern State’s football program will include a pair of hometown brothers for the 2014 season.
    Mason McMillan returns for his sophomore season, and this year he will be reunited with his younger brother, Kourtland. The brothers graduated from Tahlequah High School – Mason in 2013, followed by Kourtland in 2014. At Tahlequah, Mason and Kourtland shared the gridiron for one season.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Yurcich ready for second season

    With the 2014 season on the brink, Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State University football offensive coordinator, is ready for his second year at the helm after coaching a powerful offensive squad a year ago.

    July 28, 2014

  • James_Ethan-(12)-vs.#2CC63C.jpg Back on the line

    RiverHawks’ Ethan James returns to the line healthy and ready for 2014

    RiverHawks offensive lineman Ethan James will enter the 2014 season healthy – something the team, and James, were not in 2013.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Sooners shifting several positions

    Experience comes from encountering the same things in the same ways over and over again. Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom and Julian Wilson have that at defensive end and nickleback in bunches.
    However, both will be seeing new things when practice begins. Grissom is moving to outside linebacker. Wilson will be getting a look at cornerback as his senior season begins

    July 25, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    The NCAA once cracked down on colleges that went too far luring top prospects, then it targeted teams that lathered players with special treatment. That was until the NCAA's get-tough approach backfired, rendering it ineffective and creating an opportunity for those who want to play dirty.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • BobBowlsby.jpg Media Week: Change is coming

    Changes are coming to college athletics.
    That was the theme of the state of the conference speech by Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the first day of Big 12 Football Media Days.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Peterson.jpg Cowboy quandary: OSU defense trying to replace seven starters

    A year after the best defensive team in the Mike Gundy era, the questions now surround how those few returning starters and second-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer can maintain that high level of efficiency.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Press Sports Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating