By LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
TULSA — The wait continues for Tiger football fans searching for a road win.
A David Dick interception late in the fourth quarter sent Tahlequah to an eighth straight defeat away from Doc Wadley Stadium, a 20-15 setback to Central (2-5, 2-2 District 5A-4) Friday night before a sparse crowd at Booker T. Washington High School’s S.E. Williams Stadium.
“This was a tough one tonight, but our kids didn’t quit,” Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert said. “They showed a lot of fight and a lot of character tonight. Those traits will help us get wins as we build up this program.”
Tahlequah (1-6, 1-3) never led, allowing Central junior DeAngelo Brewer to score a touchdown on a 43-yard reception on Central’s first possession.
After giving up a second Central touchdown early in the game, Tahlequah scored nine points in the second quarter and had the opportunity to take a lead into the locker room. A 13-play, 33-yard drive came up short, with the Tigers turning the ball over on downs at the Central 24-yard line just before halftime.
In an effort to throw Central’s defense off guard, Gilbert put sophomore Will Carlile in at quarterback starting in the second quarter. Carlile stayed under center for the entire third quarter, then split time with Dick during the Tigers’ fourth quarter rally. The sophomore threw for 34 yards on six completions.
“With our offense, we thought Will might give us a little different look,” Gilbert said. “Just wanted to throw in a wrinkle or two, although David (Dick) played well in the second half when we needed him to.”
Although Central outgained Tahlequah offensively, the Tigers managed to rack up more first downs, as all three of the Tulsa school’s touchdowns were scored on drives of two plays or less.
Despite giving up more than 400 yards of total offense, the Tigers remained in the game thanks to their defense. Along with forcing Central to go 1 for 3 on two-point attempts and only allowing seven first downs, Tahlequah recovered three fumbles, including two at midfield within the last four minutes of the game.
After the Tigers’ defense recorded consecutive sacks of Central quarterback Gerald Hardridge on third and fourth down late in the fourth quarter, the Tahlequah offense was not able to convert and went four-and-out at midfield, trailing 20-9.
On the ensuing Central possession, Hardridge’s pass was tipped and recovered at the 42-yard line. Seven plays and a face mask penalty later, Carlile scored on a four-yard touchdown run with 2:14 left in the game, pulling the Tigers within five.
The Tigers were unable to convert on a two-point attempt, but an Alberto Ramirez onside kick – aided by a Central 15-yard personal foul – pinned the north Tulsa team inside its 35-yard-line. Tahlequah forced a second fumble in less than one minute, poking the ball away from Hardridge on an attempted quarterback keeper.
After an attempted long pass came up incomplete on first down, Dick threw his second interception of the night, sealing the Tigers’ loss.
The loss drops Tahlequah into a tie with Grove for seventh place in District 5A-4 with three weeks left to play.
Due to injuries sustained during the Week 7 loss, starting wide receiver Tyler Eisensmith and offensive linemen Alex Rice and Austin Robertson did not play Friday night. Gilbert did not offer an update on their status after the game.
Friday night was the Tulsa school’s first win decided on the field. Central’s record includes a forfeit victory over East Central after the Cardinals self-reported playing an ineligible student-athlete.
For Week 8, Tahlequah will travel to Pryor (3-4, 2-2), a 31-7 loser Friday night at Claremore. Due to fall break, the Tigers’ game is scheduled for Thursday.
TAHLEQUAH 0 9 0 6 15
CENTRAL 14 0 6 0 20
Central — DeAngelo Brewer 3-yard reception (2-point attempt failed)
Central — Gerald Hardridge 52-yard rush (DJ Daniels 2-point conversion)
Tahlequah — Safety
Tahlequah — Mason McMillan 3-yard rush (Alberto Ramirez kick)
Central — Brewer 82-yard rush (2-point attempt failed)
Tahlequah — Will Carlile 4-yard rush (2-point attempt failed)
Team stats Tahlequah Central
First downs 17 7
Rush yards 181 286
Pass comp-att 11-26 6-16
Pass yards 72 115
Interceptions 2 0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-3
Punts-avg 5-40 2-36
Penalties-yds 4-40 10-75
Tahlequah — Will Carlile 17-93, Brandon Conrad 4-8, David Dick 2-4, Kourt McMillan 2-17, Mason McMillan 16-59
Central — DeAngelo Brewer 7-110, Gerald Hardridge 12-168, Denzel Meadows 2-0, Keizon Reed 1-8
Tahlequah — Carlile 6-12-0 34, Dick 5-14-2 37
Central — Hardridge 6-16-0 115
Tahlequah — Carlile 2-15, Conrad 1-7, K. McMillan 6-41, M. McMillan 2-8
Central — Brewer 6-117