Panthers torched, 34-76
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
It’s hard to call it a bad night when 34 points are scored in a football game, but the tally on the visitors’ side of the scoreboard left Panther fans feeling a little shell-shocked. Wewoka laid their undefeated streak on the line inside the Pecan Bowl last Friday night and left with it very much intact after dismantling the Panthers, 76-34.
The night started off on a positive note for Okemah who began the game on offense inside Wewoka territory after the kickoff. Makhan Harjo and Mikey Cruz shared rushing responsibilities while Kurtis Wilson connected to Ethan Hodgens and then again to Byron Shepard for a touchdown. The following two-point conversion was not successful but Okemah had jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead.
In what would become the theme of the night, Wewoka replied in a hurry. After returning their kickoff to their own 35-yard line, the Tigers only needed one passing play to find the end zone. A successful two-point conversion gave the Tigers an 8-6 lead.
The next few series of downs for each team resulted without any points, despite a fumble recovery for the Panthers inside Wewoka territory. The Tigers ended the scoring drought with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter when they began their drive on their own 34-yard line and scored in just one play with a 66-yard passing touchdown. The successful two-point conversion gave Wewoka 16-6 lead.
Okemah’s following drive took the game into the second quarter but resulted in Tiger points when Wewoka intercepted the ball in the end zone and ran it the length of the field for a touchdown. After the failed two-point conversion, the Tiger lead was 22-6.
Okemah returned to the field but failed to gain a first down and turned the ball back over to Wewoka. The Tigers only needed four plays to reach the end zone again and extend their lead, 28-6.
The Panthers failed to score any more points in the second quarter, but that wasn’t the case for Wewoka who would score once more before the half. A successful two-point conversion gave the Tigers a comfortable 36-6 lead at halftime.
Wewoka opened up the third quarter with their foot on the gas, returning the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. The successful two-point conversion extended their lead 44-6.
Okemah finally found a spark when Mikey Cruz returned the following kickoff for a 70-yard touchdown. The following two-point conversion failed and the score remained 12-44.
Wewoka was forced to punt on their following drive after a sack from Korbyn Vansant forced long yardage for a first down that the Tigers were unable to gain. The Panthers returned to the field inside Wewoka territory and made great progress on a pass from Kurtis Wilson to Byron Shepard that moved the ball down inside the 10-yard line. Mikey Cruz followed up with a 9-yard touchdown run. The Panthers converted their two-point attempt and closed the scoring gap, 18-44.
Okemah looked to capitalize on their momentum by kicking an onside kick and recovered the football, but an interception a few plays later put the ball back into Wewoka’s possession.
The Tigers put themselves in a seemingly impossible situation after unsportsmanlike and personal foul penalties saddled them with a first and thirty-eight. But Wewoka blew it up on the next play with a 53-yard passing touchdown. The successful two-point conversion made the score 52-18.
Despite the score, Okemah never stopped fighting, keeping the ball on the ground for the better part of the drive and ultimately scoring on a rushing touchdown from Mikey Cruz near the goal line. The successful two-point conversion made the score 26-52.
Okemah tried the onside kick a second time but Wewoka recovered and found the end zone again in just two plays. A converted two-point attempt made the score 58-26. The following drives would be a repetitive cycle of Okemah turning the ball over on downs and Wewoka capitalizing with touchdowns.
Trailing 76-26, the Panthers final drive came with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Playing for pride, Okemah put together a successful drive, largely on the legs of Rowdy Williams who scampered for a 33-yard rushing attempt. Colton Parish rushed the ball into the end zone on the next play from seven yards out and a successful two-point conversion made the score 34-76. Mercifully, time finally expired on the clock, bringing the game to a close.
The Panthers will travel to Savanna for a district contest against the Bulldogs on Thursday, October 15th. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m.