FORT GIBSON — Tahlequah’s game plan was fairly straight-forward in its season opener against Fort Gibson on Friday night.
Put the ball in Mason McMillian’s hands and let him go to work.
Tahlequah did just that and McMillan didn’t disappoint. The senior tailback collected 194 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries, despite Tahlequah’s 40-20 setback at Leo Donahue Tiger Stadium.
When asked about McMillan after the game, Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert simply responded with, “workhorse.”
“He’s a great young man, and he ran the ball really well for us tonight,” Gilbert said of McMillan, whose 4-yard scoring run cut Fort Gibson’s lead to 21-13 with 10:11 left in the second quarter. “He carried the load. He really did.”
As a team, Tahlequah rushed for 325 yards on 46 carries.
Tahlequah quarterback David Dick was a victim of circumstance in his varsity debut at quarterback. When Tahlequah was within striking range of Fort Gibson, Dick managed the game with plenty of efficiency.
However, with Tahlequah trailing throughout the entire fourth quarter, Dick attempted to force the issue and ended up tossing four interceptions.
“I’m not going to say that he didn’t [make mistakes],” Gilbert said of Dick, who was 7 of 26 for 57 yards and a touchdown through the air. “Those things are going to happen. What’s important is we learn from this.”
Dick found success when he pulled the ball down and ran with it. He needed only six carries to amass 61 rushing yards. He also scored Tahlequah’s first touchdown on a 4-yard scramble in the first quarter.
Other than McMillan, there were questions as to who would step up and become a solid offensive playmaker for Tahlequah.
Brandon Conrad and Tyler Eisensmith answered the call against Fort Gibson.
Conrad was limited in his impact, but showed what he can do with a 43-yard run on a double reverse in the fourth quarter. The junior wide receiver/safety had 49 rushing yards on two carries, and he also caught a one-yard pass in the game.
Eisensmith proved to be Dick’s favorite target in the passing game. The senior wide receiver caught four passes for 41 yards, including a 10-yarder from Dick to score a touchdown on the final play of the first half.
“He did some really good things,” Gilbert said of Eisensmith, who also had 15 yards rushing on two carries. “We can really expect big things from him.”