Chandler rains on Panthers, 34-12
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
Looking to recapture momentum towards a playoff run, Okemah showed up in Chandler on Friday night with a fire in their belly. By the end of the game, that fire had been quenched by a persistent rainfall and a tough second half as Chandler handed the Panthers their first consecutive loss of the season.
Road games are always a tough environment but the cold and rain made this contest especially miserable. Okemah showed resolve through the first two quarters, going into halftime trailing 14-6. The Panthers opened the 3rd quarter strongly as well, closing the gap 14-12, but the rest of the game was filled with missed opportunities, questionable and untimely officiating calls and turnovers.
Chandler started the game on offense but turned it over to the Panthers on the very first play after a completed pass was fumbled and recovered by Kurtis Wilson at the Lions 41-yard line. Okemah had a quick four and out though and Chandler took over on downs.
Byron Shepard let his presence be felt on the ensuing Lion drive with a sack for an eight-yard loss followed by another tackle for a four-yard loss and Chandler punted the ball away.
The Panthers failed to gain a first down on offense and punted the ball back to Chandler. The Lions started to move the ball downfield before a critical stop on a third down from Jesse James. Chandler was unsuccessful on the next play and turned the ball over on downs.
Taking over at the Lions 34-yard line, Kurtis Wilson found Kaiden Bear on three separate occasions for a ten-yard gain, a 37-yard gain and a 10-yard touchdown pass, giving the Panthers their first lead of the night. The two-point conversion failed, but Okemah led, 6-0.
Chandler’s offense returned to the field but had zero success and punted the ball away. Okemah looked to broaden their lead but Chandler intercepted the ball in Panther territory and was able to score a few plays later. The score remained tied, 6-6, after a failed two-point conversion.
Landon Dennis returned the kick to the Panther 38-yard line. Dennis carried the ball five yards on a handoff and Mikey Cruz followed up with a five-yard gain for a first down. Makhan Harjo had his turn with a 28-yard dart into Chandler territory. Okemah continued to march inside the Lions 20-yard line before stalling out and turning the ball over on downs.
Chandler advanced the ball across midfield and into Panther territory but Kurtis Wilson came up with his second turnover on defense with an interception at the Okemah 26-yard line. The Panthers momentum was halted after an interception inside the Lions red zone turned the ball back over to Chandler.
This time Chandler was able to capitalize on the Panther mistake and drove the ball down the field, scoring a touchdown. Their two-point conversion was successful and the Lions held a 14-6 lead going into halftime.
Okemah opened the third quarter with a strong drive off the arm of Kurtis Wilson. Wilson connected to Kaiden Bear for a twenty-yard gain and also completed passes to Byron Shepard and Landon Dennis before connecting again with Kaiden Bear for a Panther touchdown. The two-point conversion failed and Chandler maintained a 14-12 lead.
The Lions offense returned to the field and for the third time in the game, Kurtis Wilson came up with a turnover when he intercepted the ball at midfield. The Panthers were not able to make it count though and turned the ball back over to Chandler in just a few plays.
Chandler’s offense made no progress and punted without gaining a first down yet again, the Panthers turned the ball over quickly on an interception. This time Chandler was able to capitalize on a short field and scored a rushing touchdown. The two-point conversion failed but the Lions had extended their lead, 20-12.
The two teams traded possessions with each turning the ball over due to sloppy playing conditions. It rained hard enough that this reporter’s pen stopped working on his soaked notepad. Okemah failed to do much on offense for the remainder of the game and Chandler scored on two other offensive possessions, sealing their 34-12 victory.
Okemah had a few defensive turnovers overturned by the officiating crew that proved to be crucial in maintaining momentum for the Panthers. A muffed punt from Chandler recovered by Okemah was ordered to be re-punted and a fumbled ball on a separate drive recovered by Okemah was also overruled. It’s difficult to say what the outcome would had been if those two plays had gone Okemah’s way but they certainly didn’t do anything for the morale of the team.
Okemah returns to the Pecan Bowl for senior night, the final home game of the regular season against the Jones Longhorns on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.