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Huskies face make-or-break game

PHS defender Eli Florence (No. 45) reaches high for Nowata’s Nate Moore as another Huskie defender prepares to deliver a low hit to the elusive runner of the Ironmen during last Friday’s district football battle at Pawhuska’s Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium. This week, the Huskies go to Chouteau for a crucial Thursday contest. JACK BUZBEE/JOURNAL-CAPITAL
PHS defender Eli Florence (No. 45) reaches high for Nowata’s Nate Moore as another Huskie defender prepares to deliver a low hit to the elusive runner of the Ironmen during last Friday’s district football battle at Pawhuska’s Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium. This week, the Huskies go to Chouteau for a crucial Thursday contest. JACK BUZBEE/JOURNAL-CAPITAL
Pawhuska’s Matthew Taft (No. 44) picks up blocks from Huskie teammates Trey Redeagle and Logan Bigeagle on a kickoff return last week against Nowata. Taft, a sophomore, averaged nearly 20 yards per return in the contest. JACK BUZBEE/JOURNAL-CAPITAL
Pawhuska’s Matthew Taft (No. 44) picks up blocks from Huskie teammates Trey Redeagle and Logan Bigeagle on a kickoff return last week against Nowata. Taft, a sophomore, averaged nearly 20 yards per return in the contest. JACK BUZBEE/JOURNAL-CAPITAL

Postseason football futures probably will be at stake Thursday night when the Pawhuska High School Huskies meet the resurgent Chouteau-Mazie Wildcats in a key District 2A-7 showdown at Chouteau.

Following a valiant effort last week in an eight-point home loss, the Huskies will be ready to unleash their fury against the district’s perennial pussycat. The Wildcats are certain to be fired up as they seek (for the third week in a row) to win a fourth season game for the first time in a decade. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

The Wildcats are coming off a 67-0 humiliation at Adair in which the Warriors’ all-world freshman quarterback, B.J. Bradbury, completed 14-of-14 pass attempts and threw six TDs.

A solid core of veteran starters bolstered Chouteau hopes this season. After going 0-10 in 2008, the Wildcats have maintained a 2-8 pace, which was their record last year. Tops among the returnees is 6-0, 185-pound senior linebacker/tailback Austin Hershberger.

Chouteau started this season by going 2-1 versus A-class teams — beating Warner at home, 24-18, before losing at Summit Christian (33-12) and posting a 36-20 win at Porter. A 30-20 victory at Chelsea got the Wildcats off and rolling in district. But, it was followed by a disappointing home loss to Oklahoma Union and then the annihilation at Adair.

Defending champ Adair sits atop the 2A-7 at 3-0 (with a 5-1 season mark), followed by Nowata at 2-1 (also 5-1 overall). Pawhuska and Chelsea both are 1-1, although the Dragons are a game better on the year at 2-4. Chouteau-Mazie and Oklahoma Union are 1-2 in district. Caney Valley is 0-3.

Oklahoma Union was defeated at home last week by Chelsea, 16-6 — a week after winning at Chouteau by that same score. Pawhuska hosts the Dragons next week for homecoming and then will travel to South Coffeyville for a Nov. 1 matchup with the Cougars.

Following are Pawhuska’s season results, to date: Sept.6 — lost at home, 15-6, to 2A foe Tonkawa; Sept. 13 lost at Class 3A Dewey, 30-26; Sept. 20 — 32-27 loss at Class A Hominy; Sept. 27 — home loss to Class 3A Metro Christian, 44-0; Oct. 4 — win at Ramona over 2A district opponent Caney Valley, 27-13; Oct. 11 — 31-23 loss to district foe Nowata.

The remaining regular-season schedule of the Huskies includes: Oct. 17 (Thursday) district game at Chouteau; Oct. 25 PHS Homecoming versus district foe Chelsea; Nov. 1 — at South Coffeyville versus district foe Oklahoma Union; Nov. 8 — at home against Adair.

Nowata 31, PHS 23

At Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium last Friday, the double-featured running attack of Cory Hobbs and Nate Moore enabled the Nowata Ironmen to fight off a determined upset bid by the Pawhuska Huskies and come away with the eight-point district triumph.

Hobbs and Moore combined for 322 running yards and four touchdowns. The Huskies were led by quarterback Zalin Edwards, who ran for three TDs and racked up 278 yards offensively (120 on the ground and 158 through the air).

Pawhuska led 16-12 at halftime before Nowata rallied behind the relentless rushing of Hobbs. The Ironmen took a nine-point advantage (26-16) into the fourth quarter, but they still needed a 41-yard TD dash by Moore to finally put the Huskies away with under three minutes remaining.

Nowata improved its season record to 5-1 following a loss last week to district-leading Adair. Pawhuska was coming off its first victory of the year via a successful district opener at Caney Valley but the loss dropped the Huskies to 1-5 and 1-1.

Disaster greeted the Huskies 16 seconds into Friday’s contest when they committed a turnover on the first snap from scrimmage. The ball ricocheted over the QB and landed at the PHS 20-yard line, where it was recovered by an onrushing Nowata defensive lineman. On the next play, signal-caller Wyatt Steigerwald put the visitors ahead, 6-0, when he hit senior receiver Tyler Brock in the front of the end zone — just 19 seconds after the start of the game.

Nowata muffed a Huskie punt at the end of the second PHS possession and senior Bryce Wilson came up with the ball to keep the Huskies on offense at the NHS 43. From there, Pawhuska marched to the end zone in five plays ended with Edwards running across from six yards out with 7:17 left in the opening stanza. Freshman Caleb Bruce kicked the extra point kick (out of a hold by Matthew Taft from a deep snap of Wilson) to put the Huskies on top, 7-6. Highlight of the TD march was a 28-yard pass from Edwards to Hayden Javellas.

Following the score, Taylor Priest nearly came up with an onside kick for Pawhuska off a well-placed lob by Bruce. The Huskies continued to pick up momentum as Nowata’s next offensive series stalled at the PHS 36. Three plays later, Edwards slashed through the middle to his second TD on a 62-yard counter play— pushing the Huskies up by seven (13-6) with two minutes remaining in the first period. The Ironmen responded with a nine-play drive to a score two minutes into the second stanza on a 21-yard run by Hobbs.

“Make a play now and you still have the lead,” Pawhuska coach Bob Craig told his players as they headed to the field to defend against the extra-point attempt.

The subsequent Nowata miss allowed Pawhuska to keep a one-point advantage, 13-12. In the final minutes of the half, Edwards passed the Huskies down the field and Bruce booted a 25-yard field goal five seconds before intermission to give the home team a 16-12 edge. Bruce then succeeded with an onside kick which was snatched from the Ironmen at midfield by junior Tyler Reece. PHS could not make the connection on a last-second bomb, however.

On its initial possession of the second half, Nowata called nine straight rushing plays in a four-minute, 73-yard scoring drive. The Ironmen regained the lead on a 16-yard TD run by Hobbs, who carried eight times in the series. The kickoff that followed the go-ahead score was fumbled by the Huskies and recovered by the visitors at the Pawhuska 35. Seven runs and one eight-yard pass later, Hobbs took it across from a yard out to give the Ironmen the biggest lead of the contest, at 25-16.

Nearly 12 minutes expired off the clock before the next points were scored on a Huskie touchdown that made it two-point game (25-23) with 5:24 remaining. PHS started the nine-play drive at its own two-yard line after the Huskie defense halted the Ironmen on a 10-play, 72-yard march that took more than five minutes off the clock. Edwards, who carried nine times for Pawhuska, finished it off with an 18-yard burst up the middle. PHS junior Trey Powell kept things alive along the arduous route to the TD when he came up with a loose ball to conclude a wild play in which Nowata intercepted a pass and then the Huskies forced a fumble.

Moore, the senior speedster of NHS, saw limited action because of a shoulder injury, but he was back in the lineup for the key Nowata series that followed Pawhuska’s fourth-quarter score. With fresh legs in the fourth quarter of the high-scoring game, the Nowata senior showed a couple of extra gears as he first picked up a 24-yard gain and then broke loose on a 41-yard TD dash that put the Ironmen ahead by eight with less than three minutes remaining.

PHS sophomore Hayden Henley blasted Steigerwald out of bounds at the pylon to deny Nowata its fourth conversion in five tries and keep Pawhuska within one-score range. Matthew Taft, a PHS sophomore who provided quality returns throughout the game, gave the Huskies good field position with a 31-yard return enhanced by a personal foul on the Ironmen. But the final Pawhuska drive was snuffed out by the Nowata defense, which recorded three sacks in the final series. Three consecutive knees then ran out the clock for the Ironmen.

Henley, Marshall Tolson and Eli Florence all turned in outstanding performances up front for the Pawhuska defense. Tolson and Henley went from sideline to sideline to chase down opposing ball-carriers and Florence battled evenly against bigger foes throughout the night. Javellas and Taylor Priest helped the PHS secondary control Nowata’s passing attack.

Two plays-of-the-game were turned in by the Huskies when QB Edwards scrambled to his left and completed laser-like throws to sticky-fingered Connor McNeil on the outer edges of the sideline.

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