Huskies unleash aerial game to soar past Trojans

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A loose football attracts the attention of Pawhuska Huskie defenders in the third quarter of Friday’s high school football game at Ramona against the Caney Valley Trojans. Connor McNeil (No. 12) prepares to pounce on the pigskin, which was stripped from the Trojan running back by PHS’s No. 55, Tyler Reece. Also pictured for the Huskies are Caleb Bruce (No. 11) and Kendall Oller (No. 72). At the bottom of the pileup is standout freshman John Bighorse. PHS won the District 2A-7 contest, 27-13. JACK BUZBEE/JOURNAL-CAPITAL
Pawhuska senior runner Taylor Priest breezes past a Caney Valley defensive back Friday in the Huskies’ 27-13 high school football road triumph over the Trojans. Priest caught one of the four touchdown passes thrown by PHS quarterback Zalin Edwards. The Huskies will be at home this Friday night to face the Nowata Ironmen.

Any warm and fuzzy feelings that might have accompanied Pawhuska’s season-first football victory last Friday did not linger long with head coach Bob Craig, who was already thinking about this week’s key district showdown with the Nowata Ironmen.

The Huskies captured their first win of the year, 27-13, over the Caney Valley Trojans. It was the opening game of PHS’s District 2A-7 schedule. District game 2 for the Huskies will be Friday night, when the Ironmen visit Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

“It felt good to get the win, of course, and we played relatively well,” Craig said of his initial triumph at the Pawhuska helm. “But we definitely will have our work cut out for us this week.”

PHS (1-4 overall and 1-0 in the district) zoomed into second place in the 2A-7 standings, ahead of Nowata — which suffered its first loss of the campaign, 24-13, to defending district champion Adair. Last year when Pawhuska played at Nowata, the Ironmen prevailed, 42-7.

The Huskies will enter the contest relatively free from injury, according to Craig, who said: “This is as close to being healthy as we’ve been.”

Pawhuska unveiled a re-vamped offensive line last week at Caney Valley, with junior Marshall Tolson and freshman John Bighorse as key full-time additions. The Huskie front was also strengthened by the return of 230-pound senior Jacob Barnes, who had been sidelined for the better part of two years.

The Huskie defense came up big all night at Ramona, except for a one-minute, 53-second stretch of the second period when the home team scored both its touchdowns. Craig said the PHS defense held the Trojans to three plays (or less) on six of their 12 offensive series.

“We call those tangos,” said Craig. “That was one of our positive areas against Caney Valley.”

A not-so-positive area was penalties, as the Huskies committed nine for 70 yards while the Trojans drew just two flags.

“The penalties were a huge problem for us,” said the coach. “Some of those 10-yard penalties actually cost us 35 yards because of the gains they wiped out.”

Since arriving at Pawhuska five months ago, Craig and his newly-formed coaching staff have worked relentlessly to transform the program.

“I think they’re starting to understand and we’re finally getting on the same page,” Craig said. “But we’re all still learning — these things take time.”

Huskies 27, Trojans 13

Plenty of aerial fireworks were on display last Friday night over Caney Valley High School’s L.D. Williams Field in Ramona and, fortunately, they weren’t caused by thunderstorms.

Pawhuska quarterback Zalin Edwards passed for four touchdowns to carry the Huskies to a 27-13 football triumph over the host Trojans. The PHS senior — who has played nearly every down of every game for two years — was an efficient 11 of 18 for 256 yards.

During a seven-minute shootout in the middle of the first half, the two teams combined to score five TDs — all through the air.

The Huskies jumped ahead, 13-0, after Edwards connected on TDs to Bryce Wilson and Connor McNeil. Sixteen seconds remained in the first quarter when Wilson grabbed a short toss, shook off one tackler and put a stop-and-go move on another en route to a 26-yard score. Wilson helped set up the situation by intercepting a Trojans’ pass and returning it 47 yards.

Less than two minutes later, Edwards escaped a strong Caney Valley rush to get his second TD. The athletic senior rolled to his right sideline before delivering a 29-yard strike to McNeil in the front corner of the end zone.

The Trojans erased the 13-point deficit with a two-minute offensive explosion. Nate Berwaldt scored both CVHS touchdowns, getting the first eight minutes before halftime after catching a 6-yard pass from freshman quarterback Hunter Hines. The Trojans’ slotback recovered his own fumble in the end zone after being stopped shot of the goal line by McNeil.

On the next play from scrimmage, Berwaldt recovered a Huskie fumble at the Trojan 38-yard line. Caney Valley then used some razzle dazzle on a fourth-down call to draw even in the contest. Hines, the left-handed QB, fired a lateral pass to wide receiver Jordan Smith, who then launched a bomb to Berwaldt as he streaked down the home sideline. The extra point that followed the 56-yard score made it 13-13.

But the Huskies quickly regained the advantage by taking the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to paydirt in just three plays. Edwards hit McNeil over the middle and the PHS senior outraced Caney Valley defenders nearly half the length of the field to give Pawhuska a 19-13 advantage five minutes before halftime.

Neither team could get on the board in the third period and the Huskie defense shut down the Trojans again in the fourth. Pawhuska picked up 13 first downs for the game compared to six for the Trojans, who had none in the opening quarter and just one in the last.

Running back Taylor Priest rushed 16 times for 58 yards to help keep the clock counting down to victory. The PHS senior scored the last touchdown of the night (and only one in the second half) with a 64-yard catch and run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Priest also recovered a fumble in the third period after the ball was stripped loose from a Trojan runner by Huskie junior Tyler Reece. Earlier in the quarter, sophomore defensive end Hayden Henley drew praise on the sideline when he batted down a Caney Valley pass.

“That happens because he does things exactly like we we tell him to do,” Craig told all players within ear-shot.

The contest started as a defensive stalemate with both initial possessions ending on failed fourth-down attempts. For the first six minutes, the ball remained within 15 yards of the original line of scrimmage, which was the PHS 36.

When the Trojans tried again on fourth down of their second series, Wilson stepped in front of a pass and returned it 47 yards to the CVHS 23. The interception gave the field-position advantage to the Huskies and eventually led to the first score.

Pawhuska 27, Caney Valley 13

Pawhuska 6 13 0 8 — 27

Caney Valley 0 13 0 0 — 13

First quarter

P — Bryce Wilson 26-yard pass from Zalin Edwards (kick failed), :16

Second quarter

P — Connor McNeil 29-yard pass from Edwards (Caleb Bruce kick), 10:42

CV — Nate Berwalt 6-yard pass from Hunter Hines (kick failed), 8:03

CV — Berwalt 56-yard pass from Jordan Smith (Tristen Gagan kick), 6:10

P — McNeil 55-yard pass from Edwards (kick failed), 5:01

Fourth quarter

P — Taylor Priest 64-yard pass from Edwards (run failed), 11:49

P — Safety, CVHS snap out of end zone, 2:43

Game statistics

Team stats Paw CV

First downs 13 6

Runs-yards 33-97 23- minus 16

Passing yards 256 211

Pass att-comp-int 11-18-1 17-28-1

Fumbles lost 1 1

Return yards 95 40

Punts-avg 4-27 5-20

Penalties-yds 9-70 2-15

Individual stats

Pawhuska Huskies (1-4)

Rushing: Taylor Priest 16 carries-58 yards, Zalin Edwards 13-22, Hayden Javellas 1-5, Matthew Taft 3-12.

Passing: Zalin Edwards 11 completions-18 attempts-256 yards-4 TDs-1 intercepted.

Receiving: Bryce Wilson 3 catches-39 yards-1 TD, Connor McNeil 3-98-2 TDs, Hayden Javellas 1-7, Mathew Taft 2-45, Taylor Priest 2-74-TD.

Caney Valley Trojans (0-5)

Rushing — Nate Berwaldt 7 carries-8 yards, Tristen Gagan 4-14, Hunter Hines 9-minus 35, Jacob Mackey 3-minus 3.

Passing — Hunter Hines 16 completions-27 attempts-155 yards-1 TD-1 intercepted, Nate Berwaldt 1-1-56-TD.

Receiving — Jordan Smith 5 catches-144 yards-1 TD, Nate Berwaldt 5-33-TD, Bailey Eden 2-13, Tristen Gagan 4-20, Jacob Mackey 1-1.

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