Panthers fall short on red zone opportunities
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
If points were given for red zone visits the final score would have been considerably different for the Panthers. Instead, a highly anticipated showdown between the 6th ranked Pawnee Black Bears and 5th ranked Panthers Saturday night resulted in a frustrating loss for Okemah, 38-14.
Pawnee began the game on offense and the Panther defense shut them out, forcing a quick punt. That punt was fumbled however and Pawnee recovered at the Panther 37-yard line. On the second play of this series, Pawnee scored on a 37-yard quarterback keeper. A successful two-point conversion gave Pawnee an 8-0 lead.
The Panthers took the ensuing kickoff and started at their own 20-yard line. Okemah faced a punting situation rather quickly, but faked the punt and Kurtis Wilson connected with Tyler Campbell for a first down at midfield. Okemah’s offense advanced the ball within striking distance but came up short, turning the ball over on downs at the Pawnee 4-yard line.
Pinned against their end zone, Pawnee stuck with the running game and moved the ball into Okemah territory. The drive seemed to be interrupted by a Panther interception, but Okemah was called for pass interference instead. Pawnee returned to the ground game successfully and scored for the second time. A successful two-point attempt extended the Black Bear lead, 16-0.
Okemah returned on offense and efficiently moved the ball with rushing attempts from Mikey Cruz and Makhan Harjo. Two consecutive passes from Kurtis Wilson to Tyler Campbell and Ethan Hodgens put the Panthers back inside the Pawnee 5-yard line. The drive fell apart on a personal foul, followed by a holding against Okemah that gave the Panthers a 2nd and goal at the 35-yard line. Okemah could not overcome that deficit and turned the ball over on downs.
Starting at the Panther 38-yard line, Pawnee ran the ball five times, resulting in another touchdown. The successful two-point conversion gave the Black Bears a comfortable 24-0 lead with just over a minute remaining in the first half.
The Panthers made great use of the clock and for the third time in the first half, fought their way inside the Black Bear 5-yard line. Spiking the ball with just five seconds remaining, Okemah faced a fourth and one at the 4-yard line. Okemah came up agonizingly short as time expired and the Panthers trailed at halftime, 24-0.
The third quarter began with Okemah on offense but a drive culminated with a turnover on downs. Pawnee took the field with the exact same results. The Panther offense returned to the field and made quick gains on the arm of Kurtis Wilson to Byron Shepard. Once again Okemah faced a first and goal situation inside the 5-yard line and this time found the end zone on a quarterback keeper from Travis Wilson. The two-point conversion was successful and Okemah joined the scoreboard, 8-24.
Pawnee fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Makhan Harjo recovered it for the Panthers. The celebration was short lived however when Okemah turned the ball back over on an interception that was returned for a Black Bear touchdown, extending their lead 32-8 after a successful two-point conversion.
Refusing to quit, Okemah’s offense continued to strike with Kurtis Wilson finding Byron Shepard on multiple occasions and Makhan Harjo and Tyler Campbell contributing on the ground. Facing a fourth and goal at the Pawnee 2-yard line, Kurtis Wilson ran it in for a touchdown on a quarterback sneak. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the score remained, 14-32.
Pawnee took their following drive into the fourth quarter and ultimately scored the games final touchdown, scoring on six rushing plays. Their two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but the deficit was enough, 38-14.
With neither team scoring the remainder of the game, the Panthers fell to a 1-1 record on the season. The fourth week of the season was set to be Okemah’s bye-week, but due to Meeker withdrawing from competition in week 2 because of COVID-19, Okemah has scheduled a fill-in game for their bye-week. The Panthers will face Tulsa-Rogers inside the Pecan Bowl on Friday, September 18th at 7 p.m.