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Yellowjackets build lead, keep it in 43-26 victory over John Marshall

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    KHS SENIOR Hayden Stafford, shown making a play against Hertiage Hall earlier this year, had nine tackles, including several for a loss, Thursday as the Jackets beat John Marshall. [Photo by Chris Simon/www.simon -sports.photos.smugmug.com]

History didn’t repeat itself Thursday night… and that’s a good thing for Kingfi sher.

The Yellowjackets capped their 2019 regular season with a 43-26 win over seventh-ranked John Marshall at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.

With the win comes a third-place finish in District 3A-1 for the Jackets while the Bears were relegated to fourth.

Both teams advance to the playoffs this week.

Kingfisher used a balance of the run game, pass game, a little trickery and some key fourth-down conversions to overcome three turnovers and John Marshall’s big-play passing game.

“We were still looking to put together a complete game against a quality opponent,” said KHS head coach Jeff Myers, whose team is 6-4 overall and fi nished 5-2 in the district.

“I think, for the most part, we got that done tonight.”

Cade Stephenson ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more.

His second TD pass was a 26-yarder to the front corner of the end zone.

Junior wideout Jarret Birdwell went up in traffi c and came down with it just before going out of bounds. The TD, on a 4th-and-5 play, gave KHS a 36-26 lead with 5:46 to play.

“That was huge for us,” Myers said. “It got us back to a two-score cushion, but we knew we still weren’t out of the woods. We’ve been in that situation here before.”

Myers was referring to Kingfi sher’s second-round playoff game against the Bears in the same stadium two years ago.

KHS built up a 35-21 lead with 3:00 left in the third quarter, but John Marshall managed to rattled off 30 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to pull away for a 51-35 victory.

The Bears went on to win the state championship.

“That’s a game that still eats at us,” Myers said. “But you have to learn from things like that so we made sure there was no let-up because John Marshall can strike quick.”

The Bears had already done that twice. They got a 72-yard strike from Jason Lewis to highly-touted wide-out Bryce Stephens on the game’s third play.

Kingfisher answered and eventually took a 21-14 lead just before halftime and received the second-half kickoff.

However, a Caleb Dick fumble on the first drive of the third quarter gave the ball back to the Bears.

John Marshall needed just one play to get a 41-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Timothy Stephens after the pass was tipped by a KHS defender.

A failed two-point run allowed KHS to maintain a one-point lead, but John Marshall’s big-play ability had been established.

“They’ve got several guys who can hurt you, so you have to be aware of where they’re at,” Myers said. “That can make it diffi cult.”

Making it more diffi cult was John Marshall platooning four quarterbacks throughout the game.

“That wasn’t on film. They had played two guys back there in everything they’d seen, so that was a new wrinkle,” Myers said. “But I felt we adjusted to most of it pretty well.”

When Birdwell’s reception gave Kingfisher the 10-point lead, the Bears tried again to hit quick.

Lewis, who had proven to be John Marshall’s best at throwing the deep ball, heaved a 50-yard pass down-field to the speedy Stephens.

However, not even Stephens could catch up to the ball and it just went through his fi ngertips.

KHS eventually forced a turnover on downs with 4:38 to play and ran more than two minutes off the clock before putting the game away on Stephenson’s 2-yard scamper with 2:23 left.

Stephenson had one of his best passing games of the season as he completed 16 of 23 passes for 185 yards.

He added another 39 on the ground.

“We were very smart about where we put the football and we did good things with it after we got it there,” said offensive coordinator Micah Nall of an offense that produced 342 yards.

Of that, 138 came on 37 rush attempts.

Down the stretch, the Jackets were able to chew up yards on the ground and seconds off the clock.

Junior Mason Mecklenburg provided crucial carries in the second half and picked up 54 yards, including multiple fi rst downs.

“I was happy that when we had to run the ball, we could,” Nall said.

Keaton Abercrombie caught eight of Stephenson’s tosses for 63 yards. Birdwell hauled in three for 46.

Six different Jackets caught passes.

Meanwhile the defense did its best to overcome John Marshall’s big plays.

And it produced points.

After John Marshall pulled within a point in the third quarter, Stephenson fumbled it back over to the Bears on Kingfi sher’s second possession of the half.

On John Marshall’s possession, though, Stephenson and Riley Myers combined to strip a Bear ball carrier.

Birdwell scooped it up and ran 30 yards into the end zone. The Jackets also got a two-point pass from Clayton Abercrombie to Reese Hart for a 29-20 lead.

John Marshall scored on Elian Morales’ 12-yard run with 4:47 left in the third quarter, but it was KHS that controlled the fi nal 16 minutes of the game.

The Jackets were also solid in the fi rst half.

After John Marshall’s initial score, the Jackets drove 62 yards in less than two minutes.

The score came when Stephenson faked a QB draw, stepped back and hit a wide open Dick who ran a wheel route. The 28-yard score pulled KHS within 8-7.

The Jackets also scored on their second possession when Stephenson ran it in from 2 yards out at the 5:11 mark of the fi rst quarter.

With the game tied at 14, Kingfisher got a 39-yard kickoff return from Keaton Abercrombie to set up shop at the Bear 41 with 3:32 left in the fi rst half.

The Jackets used all but 11 seconds of the clock and went up 21-14 on Stephenson’s sneak from the 1. The drive was earlier kept alive on a reverse pass that saw Stephenson catch a fourth-down pass from Clayton Abercrombie.

Hayden Stafford thwarted a potential last-second strike by the Bears with a sack to end the half. The senior was in the backfi eld much of the night and led the team with nine tackles, four of them for losses.

Clayton Abercrombie added eight while Keaton Abercrombie and Myers had seven tackles apiece.

“Considering how dangerous John Marshall is, I thought our defense was solid,” Myers said. “We gave up some big plays, but we also forced a lot of negative plays. Those proved to be big for us.”

The win means Kingfisher will play at District 3A-2’s second-place team Friday in the fi rst round of the playoffs. That won’t be finalized until Friday night’s games (after press time), but will be either Marlow (most likely) or Sulphur.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow night,” Myers said Thursday. “Then we’ll prepare for whoever it is. Hopefully, like last year, this win tonight is the start of something big for us in th playoffs.”