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Panthers open season with a win

Panthers open season with a win
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
The Okemah Panthers kicked off the 2020 high school football season in Henryetta against the Knights. The sweltering temperatures caused issues throughout the evening as both teams saw players go down with muscle cramps. Okemah prevailed against the heat and the Knights with a 40-20 victory.
The Panthers started the game on offense but a quick fumble allowed Henryetta to take over. Several offensive penalties put the Knights in a deep hole, forcing a punt.
Okemah’s second drive began successfully on the legs of Mikey Cruz. Kurtis Wilson completed a 36-yard pass to Byron Shepard, but Okemah turned the ball over on an interception at the Henryetta 5-yard line.
The Knights struck quickly with a 60-yard pass, but an errant snap on third down gave Henryetta a long fourth down and they punted back to Okemah.
Okemah responded with a long scoring drive that took the game into the second quarter. Kurtis Wilson completed passes to Mikey Cruz, Byron Shepard and Kaiden Bear. Tyler Campbell, Mikey Cruz and Makhan Harjo contributed with positive rushing yardage.
Mikey Cruz punched the ball into the end zone for the Panthers first touchdown of the night.  The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the score remained 6-0.
Henryetta returned their kickoff into Panther territory but a quick three and out put Okemah back on offense. The Panthers also failed to gain a first down, punting back to Henryetta.  The Knights took over at midfield, but was intercepted by Kurtis Wilson three plays later.
Okemah capitalized on the turnover with their second scoring drive. Kurtis Wilson completed a pass to Mason Cruz with Mikey Cruz and Makhan Harjo getting it done on the ground. Kurtis Wilson scored on a quarterback keeper from the 4-yard line. The unsuccessful two-point conversion kept the game 12-0.
Henryetta’s offense returned to the field without any success and was forced to punt. The Panthers took over, asserting their dominance on the ground with seven rushing plays that culminated in a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Mikey Cruz. A successful two-point conversion gave Okemah a 20-0 lead.
Henryetta caught a break on their following drive. Facing a third and two, the Knights connected on a 44-yard passing touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the half. Okemah was unable to score before the end of the second quarter and led at halftime, 20-7.
Henryetta began the third quarter on offense but a sack by Korbyn Vansant stalled their drive and the Knights punted to Okemah. Okemah successfully ran the ball a few plays before fumbling and turning the ball back over to Henryetta.
The Knights began their drive inside Okemah territory and again connected on a long passing touchdown, narrowing the score, 20-14.
The Panthers remained committed to the running game and were able to get the ball inside Henryetta territory before coughing the ball up on a fumble. The Knights took over on offense but gained no ground. A mishandled snap during the punt gave the Panthers possession inside Henryetta territory.
This Panther drive took the game into the fourth quarter and resulted in a touchdown. Kurtis Wilson found Kaiden Bear for a 20-yard pass to the goal line and Makhan Harjo rushed into the end zone the following play. The two-point conversion was successful and Okemah led, 28-14.
Henryetta’s offense failed to advance the ball and again the Knights mishandled the snap during the punt. Byron Shepard tackled the punter before the ball could be kicked away.
Okemah seized on the great field position, keeping the ball on the ground. Mikey Cruz rushed on consecutive downs before Kurtis Wilson scored on a quarterback keeper. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and Okemah led 34-14.
Henryetta returned to the field but turned the ball over quickly on an interception to Byron Shepard. The Panthers failed to gain any ground on their drive and punted back to Henryetta.
Henryetta failed to gain a first down after a sack from Graysen Clark on third down and for the third consecutive punt, mishandled the snap. Colton Parish tackled the punter before the kick could get away. The Panthers took over inside the red zone and scored on a rushing touchdown from Donavin Evans. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and Okemah led 40-14.
On the final drive of the night, Henryetta scored as time expired, making the final, 40-20.
Okemah was scheduled to play Meeker on Friday, September 4th, but due to a Meeker student being diagnosed with COVID-19, Meeker suspended classes and the game was cancelled. The Panthers will not have a game Friday and are looking to schedule a game during what would have been their bye-week on September 18th.
The next scheduled game for the Panthers will be the home opener against Pawnee on Friday, September 11th.

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