By RICHARD STROUD
GROVE – The Tahlequah Tigers ran for 480 yards, with three runners going over 100 yards each, as they ran away with a 47-20 win over Grove in the District 5A-4 opener for both teams Friday night at Ridgerunner Stadium.
Senior quarterback David Dick led the way for the Tigers (1-3 overall, 1-0 in District 5A-4) running for 182 yards on 15 carries, scoring three times while passing for another touchdown.
“They have a good scheme,” Grove head coach Dennis Millican said. “You have to play assignment football. It's the zone read; we knew what it was coming in. I think they seemed a little faster in reality than they did on film. It seemed like we were stuck in dirt. We didn't pursue very well and didn't tackle very well.”
Things started off with a bang for the Ridgerunners (1-3, 0-1) when Austin Cross took the opening kick back for a touchdown and an early 6-0 lead for Grove.
But the Tigers countered with the running back duo of Brandon Conrad and Colton Wright, who each ran the ball twice on the ensuing drive that began at the Tahlequah 20. Wright had the big play, a 49-yard gain to the Grove 7, while Conrad got the touchdown on the next play to give the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish.
“We've been running the ball really well all year,” Tahlequah head coach Brad Gilbert said. “We thought coming in with what we had that we could establish running the ball effectively.”
The Ridgerunners were poised to strike back when Clayton Honeycutt returned a short kickoff to the Tahlequah 41, nearly getting by the final defender for a second kickoff return touchdown. Grove would use a mix of runs and passes to put the ball inside the Tiger 5, but quarterback Jake Spychalski was stopped on a scramble on 4th and 2.
An exchange of punts would leave the Tigers with the ball at their own 12 late in the opening quarter. Tahlequah would use 10 plays to cover the distance, all on the ground, highlighted by a 22-yard dash by Conrad before Wright punched it in from four yards out to make it 14-6.
After a Grove interception, Dick would get in on the act with a pair of 10-yard runs and the touchdown from 24 yards away.
Grove would get back in it momentarily, going 75 yards in 15 plays, including a 14-yard run by Austin Cross on a fourth down before Cross scored from five yards out to make it 20-13.
But Dick would have a final answer. Taking over on the Tahlequah 35, the senior quarterback ran for 27 then threw a 35-yard touchdown to Kyle Lucas to make it 27-13 at the half.
A fumbled kickoff would lead to a touchdown run by Conner Dickey to make it 27-20, but from there it would be all Tahlequah. Dick would answer with a 37-yard touchdown run and Conrad would go for 86 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“It's week one of district play and you just never know,” Gilbert said. “I would not have anticipated it being this lopsided. We simplified things [defensively]. We got our kids lined up and just let them play. They came out with just consistent effort on every play. The kids really stepped up and bought into what we wanted them to do.”
“We got down there early on our first drive and that's where physicality takes over,” Millican said. “We need to get stronger and more powerful. I thought for sure we'd come in this season and be effective running the ball. It seemed like we did okay in the scrimmages, but for whatever reason, we haven't been able to get much out of the running game.”
Tahlequah 47, Grove 20
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
THS 7 20 6 14 47
GHS 6 7 7 0 20
11:46 GHS Cross 87-yd kickoff return (kick missed). GHS 6-0
9:37 THS Conrad 7-yd run (Patrick kick). THS 7-6
8:21 THS Wright 4-yd run (Patrick kick). THS 14-6
5:31 THS Dick 24-yd run (pass failed). THS 20-6
:51 GHS Cross 5-yd run (Cross kick). THS 20-13
:22 THS Lucas 35-yd pass from Dick (Patrick kick). THS 27-13
10:07 GHS Dickey 1-yd run (Cross kick). THS 27-20
8:33 THS Dick 37-yd run (kick missed). THS 33-20
11:44 THS Conrad 86-yd run (Patrick kick). THS 40-20
4:29 THS Dick 30-yd run (Patrick kick). THS 47-20
Rushes-Yds 27-94 45-480
Passing 163 47
Total 257 527
C-A-I 18-32-2 2-5-1
First downs 18 16
Third downs 6-12 2-5
Fourth downs 1-3 1-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yds 4-30 6-60
RUSHING: GHS – Cross 7-38, Dickey 7-26, Spychalski 8-12, Phillips 3-5, Sharp 1-7, Sisco 1-6. THS – Dick 15-182, Conrad 11-160, Wright 14-106, McMillan 2-22, Rippetoe 2-7, Lucas 1-3.
PASSING: GHS – Spychalski 18-32, 163 yds, 0TD, 2INT. Sharp 0-1. THS – Dick 2-5, 35 yds, 1TD, 1INT.
RECEIVING: GHS – Honeycutt 5-42, Jeffries 4-51, Sharp 4-22, Lyle 3-36, Cross 1-6, Londagin 1-6. THS – Lucas 1-35, Carlile 1-12.