SALINA — In between a decent start and respectable finish, the Pawhuska High School Huskies found the going to be extremely tough Friday during a 36-12 loss to the Salina Wilcats in an opening-round elimination game of the Class 2A state football playoffs.
After a pass interception ended the initial PHS series on its seventh play, Salina slowly but surely took control in the middle two-thirds of the contest. The Wildcats used an attacking defense to disrupt the Huskies’ offense and the Salina rushing game ground out over 300 yards. Five different runners scored touchdowns for the Wildcats, who finished with 66 offensive plays compared to the 37 of the Huskies.
The Wildcats grabbed a 22-point halftime advantage and built a 36-0 lead in the waning seconds of the third period en route to their ninth season victory. Salina racked up 17 first downs in quarters 2 and 3, while the visitors could only manage to move the chains twice.
Pawhuska concluded a 4-7 campaign under new head coach Bob Craig by sustaining its second consecutive lopsided defeat. After dropping five of the first six outings, the Huskies rallied in the latter half of the season and made the playoffs for a fourth straight year. (PHS even vied for a district championship in the previous week’s home finale, but took it on the chin, 39-6, from the unbeaten Adair Warriors.)
A pair of first-half turnovers and other mistakes helped seal the final fate of the Huskies, but most of the responsibility for the season-ending loss should go to the host Wildcats — who established their clear superiority despite allowing Pawhuska to gain 230 yards through the air on 13-of-18 passing.
PHS took the opening kickoff to the front border of Salina territory. The Huskie drive was initially kept alive on a four-yard dash by sophomore Gage Dagenais, who converted a fourth-and-one call off a faked punt. After a quarterback sack (the first of five by the Wildcats in the game) , Pawhuska moved the chains again with a 20-yard completion off an acrobatic catch-and-run by senior Bryce Wilson.
One play later, Salina senior Cale Backward intercepted a pass — ending the only promising drive for the Huskies while the game’s outcome remained in doubt. Backward then quarterbacked the Wildcats 50 yards to the night’s initial touchdown. Nine straight rushing plays concluded on a five-yard TD run by senior Cullen Patterson and gave Salina the lead for good with five minutes left in the first period. After setting up for an extra-point kick, Backward hurled a conversion pass to junior Tyler Underwood that made the lead eight points.
The opposing defense shut down the next two Huskie possessions before the Wildcat offense rolled 38 yards in six plays for another touchdown. It came four minutes into the second quarter off a short run by Salina junior Kyle Johnson, who subsequently booted the first of his four straight extra-point conversions to put the home team ahead by a 15-0 margin.
With eight minutes to go in the second stanza, a second PHS pass was picked off by another Wildcats’ senior, Bret Fite. That led to a two-play drive and a nine-yard TD run by senior Jon Parsons that made the score 22-0 with 7:16 left in the half. Pawhuska managed to earn its third first down of the night less than a minute before the break on a 21-yard throw from senior quarterback Zalin Edwards to junior Hayden Javellas.
The Wildcats took the second-half kickoff on an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that took more than five minutes off the clock while putting the home team up by 29 points. After a 34-yard Edward-to-Javellas hookup gave the Huskies a temporary spark, the Salina defense stiffened and held Pawhuska a yard short on a fourth-down-and-four try. Another nine Salina rushing plays concluded with Fite scoring from two yards out and increasing the lead to 36 points.
A little more than seven minutes remained in the game when the Huskies finally cracked the scoreboard. On a fourth-down-and-22 call, Wilson snagged an Edwards’ screen pass and broke loose from two tacklers on a 34-yard touchdown dash down the sideline.
The shutout-breaking score was set up with a 53-yard completion from a scrambling Edwards to the ever-dependable PHS senior, Connor McNeil. McNeil also helped bring about the second Huskie TD when he caught a 26-yard option fling by Wilson by ducking under the secondary coverage at the Salina seven-yard line.
Edwards — who had darted 44 yards to get the series rolling — then passed twice to Javellas, with the second toss being good for a three-yard touchdown with just 28 seconds left to play. The TD marked the seventh catch of a 68-yards’ receiving evening for Javellas, who scored the Huskies’ first points of the 2013 season as well as their last.
As the Wildcats went about establishing major advantages in points, plays and time of possession, they did it in a rather unspectacular fashion. The longest Salina gain was a 26-yard non-scoring run, and the Wildcats next longest gains were a 15- and 13-yard runs, plus their lone pass completion good for 14 yards.
The Huskies matched the 26-yard gainer twice on pass plays and exceeded it on throws of 53 and 34 (twice), with a 44-yard run and additional pass plays of 21 and 19 (twice).
Salina will move on to the 2A postseason’s second round where the Wildcats are slated to go on the road for a matchup with the undefeated (11-0) Vian Wolverines.
Elsewhere in the 2A playoffs, the Nowata Ironmen (10-1) defeated Colcord, 37-12, and are next headed for Meeker to face the 11-0 Bulldogs. The Commerce Tigers (11-0) will follow a 60-7 win over Chelsea by hosting the Hartshorne Miners (9-2) Adair (10-1), after popping Kansas, 56-19, last Friday, will host the Okemah Panthers (9-2) this week. The only team to defeat Adair, the 11-0 Millwood Falcons follow a 72-0 humiliation of Tonkawa with a home game against Hobart (7-3).
In Class 3A last week, Victory Christian was a 42-3 winner over Dewey and Metro Christian blanked Okmulgee, 44-0. A-Class Hominy won its matchup against Summit Christian, 34-27, and Afton hung a 55-8 loss on Barnsdall. Also, Keota claimed a Class B shootout over Fairfax, 58-48.
Salina 36, Pawhuska 12
Pawhuska 0-0-0-12 — 12
Salina 8-14-14-0 — 36
S — Cullen Patterson 5-yard run (Cale Backward pass to Tyler Underwood), 4:48
S — Kyle Johnson 3-yard run (Kyle Johnson kick), 8:02
S — Jon Parsons 9-yard run (Johnson kick), 7:16
S — Cale Backward 3-yard run (Johnson kick), 6:42
S — Bret Fite 2-yard run (Johnson kick), :39
P — Bryce Wilson 34-yard pass from Zalin Edwards (pass failed), 6:58
P — Hayden Javellas 3-yard pass from Edwards (pass failed), :38
First downs: Pawhuska 10, Salina 22
Rushes-yards: PHS 19-18, SHS 63-309
Passing yards: Pawhuska 204, Salina 14
Comp-Att-Ints: PHS 13-18-2, SHS 1-3-0
Return yards: Pawhuska 7, Salina 46
Punts-Avg: Pawhuska 3-35, Salina 2-42
Penalties-yds: Pawhuska 4-28, Salina 7-80
Pawhuska Huskies (4-7)
Rushing — Bryce Wilson 6 carries-13 yards, Zalin Edwards 11-8, Gage Dagenais 1-4, Taylor Priest 1-minus 7.
Passing — Zalin Edwards 11 completions-17 attempts-178 yards-2 touchdowns-2 ints, Bryce Wilson 1-1-26 yards.
Receiving — Hayden Javellas 5 catches-68 yards-1 touchdown, Bryce Wilson 3-56-1 TD, Conner McNeil 3-81, Taylor Priest 2-25.
Head coach Bob Craig. Assistants Bill Balcom, Brian Edwards, Randall Esch, Mark Frye, David Hindman, Patrick McCarty, Monty Unruh, James Manns.
Salina Wildcats (9-2)
Rushing — Jon Parsons 14 carries-97 yards-1 touchdown, Cale Backward 12-68-1 TD, Bret Fite 10-33-1 TD, Ysidrio Cardenas 6-18, Bret Lococo 6-minus 3, Kyle Johnson 5-28-1 TD, Cullen Patterson 4-26-1 TD, Damon Gourd 3-36, Bryce Kerns 2-0, Matt Ogle 1-6,
Passing — Cale Backward 1 completion-14 yards, Bryce Kerns 0-1.
Receiving — Colton Burgess 1 catch-14 yards.
Head coach Kyle Fowler.