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Big plays pay off

October 18, 2020 - 00:00
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Jackets’ quick-strike offense helps them outlast P-T 38-31

  • Big plays pay off
    GAME CHANGER - Cade Stephenson (3) looks toward the end zone, which is where he is headed on this 75-yard scoring run near the end of the first half against Perkins-Tryon. Stephenson scored four touchdowns as the Jackets emerged 38-31. [Photo by Chris Sim
  • Big plays pay off
    KHS SENIOR Jarret Birdwell watches this pass into his hands. Birdwell made the catch, turned up field and gained 27 yards on the first-quarter play. He finished with 94 receiving yards and a TD as well as an interception. [Photo by Chris Simon/www. simon-
  • Big plays pay off
    KHS CHEERLEADERS Kari Shepard, Sara Delatorre, Kylee Rojas and Makiah Dewberry race down the Kingfisher sideline after a Yellowjacket touchdown during Thursday night’s victory over Perkins-Tryon. [Photo by Chris Simon/www. simon-sports-photos.smugmug. c

It appears nothing’s going to come easy as Kingfisher attempts to lock up a playoff spot in 2020.

The Jackets took a big step in that direction Thursday night as they held off Perkins-Tryon 38-31 at home in a pivotal District 3A-1 game.

“That was big,” KHS coach Jeff Myers said after his team upped its district record to 3-0. “Now we can control our own fate. If we take a loss tonight, that’s not necessarily the case.”

It certainly didn’t seem feasible early as Kingfisher needed just seven snaps to build a 21-0 lead on the Demons.

Cade Stephenson broke off a 42-yard touchdown run on the Jackets’ third play from scrimmage.

The next two possessions had similar results as Stephenson caught a 36-yard TD from Jax Sternberger on the second and then a 32-yard touchdown on the third, which was a one-play drive.

“Last week we didn’t come out ready to play and it nearly cost us,” Myers said. “We made it a point to not let it happen again this week.”

Kingfisher’s defense was swarming the Perkins offense, which was heading right into a stiff north breeze.

The Demons got their first break when Cashtin Craycraft stepped in front of a Sternberger pass early in the second quarter.

That led to a touchdown run by Demon quarterback Austin Mages and the dogfight - maybe unknowingly at the time - was on.

Kingfisher’s offense stalled in the second quarter and the Demons cut into their deficit by embarking on a 48-yard drive.

Another Mages TD run, this one from 8 yards out, and a second missed extra-point made it a 21-12 game with 4:27 to play in the half.

The Jackets answered with their third straight empty possession, but Perkins couldn’t capitalize and punted it away.

Kingfisher was 76 yards away from the end zone and appeared ready to run out the clock and regroup for the second half.

Stephenson had other ideas as he got through the right side of the line of scrimmage then cut back to the middle and outran the Demons for a 75-yard touchdown run.

“That was such a big play,” Myers said. “Either way we were going to have a lead, but Perkins had taken away some of our momentum and we were able to steal it back and take a bigger lead at the half.”

But, again, Perkins wouldn’t go away quietly.

The Demons ate nearly four minutes off the clock and pulled within 28-18 when Mages hit Teegan Shepard for a 30-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play.

The quick-strike Jackets hit with an other big answer, though, when Jarret Birdwell flashed over the middle, hauled in a pass from Sternberger and raced for a 67-yard touchdown.

Still another reply from Perkins was awaiting as Mages found Beck Smith across the middle for a 24-yard score on a third-and-long play.

That pulled them within 35-25 late in the third quarter.

It got more dicey for the Jackets when the Demons went on another four-minute drive early in the fourth.

This one ended with Mages running in a 5-yard touchdown. This time the Jackets blocked the extra-point, but for the first time since the game’s early minutes, the Demons were within one score at 35-31.

“They’ve played some really good teams, so maybe their record doesn’t necessarily reflect it right now, but Perkins is a good team,” Myers said. “Even when we got up, we knew they weren’t going to just go away.

“Now, as coaches, we weren’t happy we let them come back like that, but we also weren’t surprised that they kept fighting.”

The Jackets were in desperate need of an answer and got some help from the Demons in getting it.

Pass interference and personal foul penalties gave the Jackets 30 free yards.

A 17-yard run by Stephenson got KHS deeper into Demon territory.

The drive eventually stalled and Kingfisher initially lined up for a 28-yard field goal.

But the Jackets changed their formation and Stephenson, the holder for kicks, lined up at quarterback.

That forced Perkins to use its first timeout of the half, which proved valuable later.

“I thought they might call a timeout because it’s a formation we haven’t shown this season,” Myers said. “But we also have several plays we can run out of it and what we had called was going to be wide open.”

After the timeout, the Jackets lined up in an offensive formation, but switched to a field goal try.

Alan Muñoz, the team’s backup kicker, calmly booted a 28-yard field goal for a 38-31 lead with 5:03 to play.

“Going up seven points was huge at that point,” Myers said.

Muñoz was filling in for Aaron Delatorre and made all five extra-point attempts plus the late field goal. “He was really good for us,” Myers said of the junior. “He stepped up in a different role and really delivered.”

But the Jackets still needed at least one more stop.

They got the first one when Birdwell soared over a Demon to pick off a Mages pass with under 3:00 to play. Kingfisher seemingly

Kingfisher seemingly iced the game when Sternberger completed a long first down pass to Dynton Townsend, but Townsend was called for offensive pass interference.

“I didn’t see where they got the call then and after taking a quick look at it, I’m still not sure,” Myers said. Kingfisher had to punt it

Kingfisher had to punt it away one final time, but Perkins was pinned at its own 13 with 1:42 to play and had to drive into the wind with no timeouts.

“They could have used that one they had to burn on our field goal,” Myers said. “So that really worked in our favor.” Kingfisher’s defense

Kingfisher’s defense eventually forced the turnover on downs to end the game.

On top of his four-touchdown night, Stephenson led the team with 14 tackles and he also had an interception on Perkins’ first drive of the game.

He ran for 138 yards on 15 carries and his three catches netted 62 yards.

Birdwell caught two passes for 94 yards to go along with his big defensive play. Sternberger was 9 of 16

Sternberger was 9 of 16 for 185 yards.

On defense, Slade Snodgrass and T.J. Parker had nine tackles apiece while Tate Taylor added seven and Camden Foster six.

The Jackets, 5-2 overall, were set to travel to Mount St. Mary on Friday before closing the season with games against Heritage Hall and Anadarko.

However, Mount St. Mary won’t be out of quarantine until Friday, so the game has been canceled.

The latter two teams join Kingfisher in being undefeated in district play.

As for next week, the Jackets are searching for an opponent, but are prepared to take an off week if necessary.

“We aren’t going to just schedule anyone for the sake of having a game,” Myers said. “But we are looking.”

Play or not, Myers said his team will continue to work to improve.

“We’ve still got bigger tests ahead,” Myers said. “We did a better job this week of coming out ready to play. Now we have to work at putting four full quarters together because we’re going to need that in the next few weeks.”