WAGONER - Tahlequah went toe to toe with Class 4A top-ranked Wagoner but came up on the short end of a 22-10 loss Friday in Wagoner.
The Bulldogs scored all 22 of their points in the second half and overcame a 3-0 halftime deficit. They went on a 65-yard scoring march, capped by Braden Drake 2-yard touchdown run, that lasted 5:32 and sealed the deal.
The loss snaps two Tahlequah win streaks. It ends the Tigers' string of 10 straight non-district games dating back to 2016, and also ends their stretch of 11 consecutive road wins.
Wagoner, who was coming off a 28-0 win over Coweta in week one, took the lead for good at the 4:39 mark of the third quarter when quarterback Sawyer Jones got into the end zone from one yard out and also found Jamon Davis on a two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs an 8-3 advantage.
The Bulldogs, who move to 2-0 and were coming off a 28-0 win over Coweta in week one, also got a 55-yard touchdown pass from Sawyer when he connected with Chase Nanni with 1:37 left in the third that pushed their lead to 15-3.
Tahlequah didn't go away as junior first-year starting quarterback Tyler Joice hooked up with senior receiver Kobey Baker on a 3-yard TD with 7:23 remaining in the game.
The Tigers fall to 1-1 under head coach Brad Gilbert and will return home to face McAlester in their final non-district game Friday, Sept. 11 at Doc Wadley Stadium.
"We gave a great effort and hats off to our defense and how they played," Gilbert said. "We had too many missed opportunities in the first half offensively. We've got to be able to punch it in against a good team, and that starts with me being able to communicate with those guys.
"I'm extremely proud of our young men. They came over here and played a really football game. Our program will never be satisfied with coming close. We're here to win football games and that's what we want to do, but our kids never quit and they fought the whole night."
Tahlequah started two drives in Wagoner territory during the first half and both times came up empty. The Tigers also drove to the Wagoner 24-yard line on their first offensive possession but the drive fell apart on two negative yardage plays.
The Tigers, who were without starting running back MalikMcMurtrey, couldn't get anything going in their run game, finishing with minus-30 yards.
"We knew defensively they were really good," Gilbert said. "We were going to have our hands full. We were presented opportunities and we've got to figure out a way to punch it in. We've got to do a better job of getting the ball to our playmakers, and that starts with me."
"The run defense was exceptional," Wagoner head coach Dale Condict said. "It set the tone. We gave up a little in the passing game, but overall I thought our run defense was exceptional. We made a lot of big plays and they had a lot of negative plays, which sets us up for good situations defensively."
Joice completed 16 of 21 passes for 137 yards and threw a pair of interceptions, and Baker finished with nine receptions for 66 yards.
Defensively, Tahlequah forced a pair of turnovers, including an interception from linebacker Shaw Thornton. The Tigers also held the Bulldogs to 219 total yards after they rushed for 393 against Coweta last week.
"Our defense did a tremendous job and kept us in the football game," Gilbert said. "The game of football is about creating turnovers and winning field position, and that has a lot to do with how successful you are."
Sawyer completed just 3 of his 11 pass attempts for 60 yards. The Bulldogs were led on the ground by Drake, who closed with a game-high 81 yards on 18 carries. Wagoner rushed for 159 yards as a team, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
"We weren't playing with any energy and it wasn't the effort we needed," Condict said. "We continually made silly mistakes and a lot of it has to do with offense. We got in the diamond offense in the second half. There was a lack of energy early in the game on the offensive side of the ball."
Wagoner will conclude non-district play at Sperry on Friday, Sept. 18.