FRESH START: Tigers open playoffs against Edison Friday

Byron Beers | Daily Press

Tahlequah quarterback Tyler Joice hands off to Kobey Baker last week against Collinsville. Joice threw three touchdown passes to Baker in the Tigers' 55-20 loss.

Tahlequah will try to snap a pair of streaks on Friday when it hosts Tulsa Edison in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Doc Wadley Stadium.

The Tigers haven’t won a playoff game since 2017 when they defeated Coweta, 19-7, in the opening round. They also haven’t won a home playoff game since defeating Tulsa Webster in 1992.

Tahlequah, coming off a 55-20 setback at No. 2 Collinsville to close out the regular season last week, is making its seventh consecutive playoff appearance under head coach Brad Gilbert. The streak matches the longest in program history. The Tigers reached the playoffs seven straight times from 1987-93.

Since starting the season 1-2, Tahlequah (5-4 overall, 4-2 in District 5A-4) has won four of its last six games, including a stretch of three straight wins against Claremore, Glenpool and Tulsa Memorial.

“We continued to get better week in and week out,” Gilbert said. “We rebounded and ran off three straight in district play. We ended up third, but had a chance to finish second going into week 10. I think that says something about those young men in our program as a whole, and the expectations haven’t changed and won’t change. There were many question marks, but I think the kids always believed.”

In the loss to Collinsville, junior quarterback Tyler Joice completed 16 of 27 passes for 221 yards and threw three touchdown passes to senior receiver Kobey Baker, who finished with five receptions for 111 yards. Joice had a team-high 88 rushing yards.

The Tigers finished with 326 total yards, but were limited to 105 rushing yards. They were averaging 224 yards on the ground the previous three weeks. Junior running back Malik McMurtrey was held to 10 yards last week after combining for 422 yards and eight touchdowns against Claremore, Glenpool and Memorial.

Defensively, Tahlequah allowed a season-high 430 total yards against Collinsville. The Cardinals also converted all nine of their third downs. Senior defensive back Qua’shon Leathers and senior linebacker Carson Ferguson recorded 12 tackles each.

Edison (3-6, 2-5 in District 5A-3) went 2-2 over its last four regular season games. The Eagles defeated Tulsa Will Rogers and Durant and had setbacks to Tulsa East Central and McAlester.

“We had a good meeting [Sunday] as a team before we watched film. I think they’re pretty excited,” Gilbert said. “It’s a new season and everybody’s excited about the new opportunity. We’ve got a good Edison team coming to town. I don’t think their record reflects their ability.”

The Eagles have a pair of junior defensive ends — Chris McClellan and Martinson Holden — that concern Gilbert.

“Edison will be a big challenge for us on both sides of the ball up front,” Gilbert said. “When you are dealing with two guys that are 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, it will be a challenge. They’re athletic, big and very active.”

Edison is led offensively by running back Gerard Thompson.

“He’s a very explosive football player that can hit the seam and go the distance at any point and time in the game,” Gilbert said.

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