Panthers stumble on the road, lose 45-28
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
Okemah traveled to Hugo Friday night to close out the non-conference portion of the season. Facing a 0-2 opponent and coming off a dominating performance the previous week, the Panthers seemed primed for a second straight road win. Hugo didn’t get the memo however and the Buffalo defended their turf with a convincing 45-28 stand, denying the Panthers from ever leading the game.
Hugo won the toss and elected to receive the opening kick. Three plays later the Buffalo scored on a 51-yard rushing touchdown. Fans were still finding their seats as Hugo took an 8-0 lead.
Okemah’s offense steadily moved the ball down the field on their first drive, flustering Hugo enough that the Buffalo were forced to use two of their timeouts. That effort stalled once Okemah got inside the red zone and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs after getting sacked on 4th down at the Hugo 21-yard line.
Hugo’s second possession of the night seemed to give the Panthers an early break when it appeared Okemah recovered a Buffalo fumble. The referees overturned the call however and Hugo retained possession. Still, the Panther defense held strong, forcing Hugo to punt.Okemah fumbled the punt return and Hugo took over at the Panther 43-yard line. Once again, Okemah’s defense stood their ground, forcing a four and out. Hugo punted the ball, pinning the Panthers back at the 8-yard line
Hugo capitalized on the field position and sacked the Panthers for a safety, taking a 10-0 lead with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
Following the safety, Okemah kicked the ball back to Hugo. The Buffalo’s took the drive into the second quarter, eventually scoring a touchdown. An extra point made it 17-0.
On the next Panther drive, Mikey Cruz had a spectacular 43-yard run down to the Buffalo 19-yardline. However, Okemah didn’t move the ball beyond that, turning it over on downs.
Hugo took over looking to extend their lead but Tristan Thomas intercepted a pass, sending the Panther offense back onto the field with great field position at the Buffalo 41. Okemah advanced to the 12-yard line on a 19-yard scamper by Makhan Harjo. It seemed like a first and ten for the Panthers but the referees huddled together and determined that Hugo had stripped the ball, ending the Okemah drive.
Once again Hugo was unable to move the ball against the Panthers and was forced to punt with 5:46 left in the half.
Starting at the Hugo 47, Okemah put together a scoring drive, culminating in an 8 yard rushing touchdown by Mikey Cruz. The two-point conversion failed, but Okemah had finally put points on the board, 17-6.
The Panthers then turned right around and caught Hugo off guard with an onside kick. Landon Dennis recovered the football, giving 0kemah another opportunity to score before halftime. Four plays later and Dennis stepped up again with a 33-yard rushing touchdown. This time the two-point conversion was successful and Okemah narrowed the gap, 14-17.
Okemah received the kick after halftime looking to take the lead for the first time in the game. The Panthers were unable to advance past midfield and for the first time this season, punted the ball.
Hugo received the punt at its own 30-yard line and returned it for a touchdown. A successful extra point kick made the score 24-14.
Okemah returned to the field with a sense of urgency but an interception on third down put Hugo back in the driver’s seat, scoring again and extending their lead, 31-14.
The Panthers returned to the field, maintaining a long, steady drive that took the game into the fourth quarter. Okemah continued to march all the way to the goal line before Mikey Cruz punched it into the end zone for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. The successful two-point conversion made it 31-22 with 10:43 left in the game.
Hugo’s offense put more pressure on the Panthers as they scored once again with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, extending their lead, 37-22.
Okemah took over on offense, doing their best to stay in the game but was intercepted, turning the ball back over to Hugo.
Hugo fumbled shortly thereafter and Okemah recovered. The Panthers quickly moved down the field on a pass from Kurtis Wilson to Kaiden Bear. A few plays later, Mikey Cruz rushed into the end zone for a Panther touchdown, still trailing 28-37.
Hugo’s offense quickly scored on a 68-yard rushing touchdown, extending their lead again, 45-28.
The Panthers took the field for a final time but was unable to score, turning the ball over on downs. Hugo ran out the remaining clock with a final score, 45-28.
Okemah opens conference play on Friday at 7 p.m. with a home game against Henryetta.