Panthers outlast Ropers in offensive slugfest, 46-34
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
Okemah faced Will Rogers High School in what turned out to be a high-scoring shootout between the two squads last Friday night. The Panthers ultimately prevailed but Will Rogers gave them plenty of looks before the dust settled with an Okemah victory, 46-34.
The game kicked off with Will Rogers starting on offense and turning the ball over to Okemah on a quick four-down series. The Panthers gained a quick first down before fumbling the ball back over to the Ropers. Will Rogers returned on offense and found the end zone five plays later with a 41-yard passing play. The two-point conversion was no good but the Ropers led 6-0.
Okemah’s offense returned the kickoff to the Panther 22-yard line. The Panthers stuck to the ground game the entire drive, lasting 11 plays with rushing attempts from Kurtis Wilson, Makhan Harjo and Tyler Campbell. The drive culminated in a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Kurtis Wilson. The two-point attempt was successful and Okemah led 8-6.
Will Rogers began their ensuing offensive drive and made short work of the Panther defense, scoring in just four plays with the touchdown coming on a 39-yard rushing attempt. The Roper two-point conversion was successful and Will Rogers jumped back out front, 14-8.
The following Panther drive took the game into the second quarter and ultimately stalled out after a bad snap on fourth and twelve resulted in a turnover on downs. Will Rogers took over without any success after a holding penalty followed up by a sack from Eli Tilley pinned the Ropers back and forced a punting situation.
Okemah had success moving the ball into Roper territory from the Panther 24-yard line, but an interception killed the drive. Will Rogers capitalized on the turnover and scored in just three plays. The two-point conversion failed, but Will Rogers had extended their lead, 20-8.
With just over a minute to play in the half, Tyler Campbell put the Panthers in great field position, returning the kick-off to midfield. Four plays later, Kurtis Wilson connected with Ethan Hodgens for a 31-yard passing touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful and Okemah narrowed the lead going into halftime, 16-20.
The Panthers started the second half on offense but failed to gain a first down and turned the ball over after a four down series. Will Rogers gifted the ball right back to Okemah when Makhan Harjo intercepted the ball and returned it inside Roper territory. A 40-yard passing connection between Kurtis Wilson and Ethan Hodgens gave Okemah a first and goal at the 3-yard line. The Panthers scored a few plays later on a Tyler Campbell rushing attempt. The two-point conversion was successful and Okemah regained the lead, 24-20.
Will Rogers’ following offensive drive ended in a hurry after the Panther defense shut them out in four plays. Returning to offense at midfield, Okemah Kurtis Wilson connected to Byron Shepard at the Roper 29-yard line. Wilson followed that play up with a 29-yard scramble to the end zone for a Panther touchdown. The two-point conversion was not successful, but Okemah led 30-20.
The Ropers looked to narrow the Panther lead but were immediately set back by a second sack from Eli Tilley followed shortly thereafter by an interception from Kurtis Wilson, who returned it all the way to the house for another Panther touchdown. The two-point conversion was good and Okemah extended their lead, 38-20.
Will Rogers made it a game again, scoring on their following drive and then scoring another touchdown following a Panther punt. The 14-point swing narrowed the score, 38-34, with Okemah still out front.
Both Okemah and Will Rogers would punt again before the Panthers ultimately put the game away with a six-play drive, all on rushing attempts. Tyler Campbell carried the ball first before Mikey Cruz took over, rushing on five consecutive attempts before finding the end zone with just over a minute remaining in the game. The successful two-point conversion made the final score 46-34.
Any hope Will Rogers had on mounting a miraculous comeback was dashed when the Ropers fumbled the ball on the kickoff return and Okemah recovered. The Panthers settled into victory formation and ran out the rest of the clock. Okemah will begin their district portion of the schedule on Friday, September 28th, in a contest against Liberty. The game will also be the host for both Homecoming and Senior Night as the uncertainty of COVID-19 made it necessary to combine the two events to ensure the pageant and the fall student-athletes can be recognized.
Homecoming will begin at 6:15 p.m. Senior Night will take place immediately following the homecoming ceremony and the football game will begin 30 minutes after Senior Night has concluded.