By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
After the homecoming game against Ponca City Friday night, Stillwater High School football coach Tucker Barnard was critical of his offense not blocking well enough at times. He was critical of his defense for not hitting the right gaps.
And then a smile crept across his face.
It may not have been absolutely perfect — few games are — but for the first time in nine games, Stillwater walked off the field with a victory, shutting out Ponca City 41-0.
“It’s feels really good right now,” Barnard said. “It’s been a long time. Somebody said it’s almost been a year, but it feels like 10 years. I’m excited for our kids tonight. They played hard. We had challenged them and worked them over for three really hard, grueling weeks and tonight they get to celebrate.”
Stillwater (1-3, 1-0 in district) racked up 502 yards of offense — 307 on the ground — and scored three times on its six offensive snaps. The big one, a 73-yard scamper on third-and-3 by Braxton Noble, set the tone for a night filled with fireworks.
“Braxton came out and ran the ball very well,” Barnard said. “We were very efficient on offense, almost too efficient. We played a lot of defensive plays in the first half because our offense was so efficient.”
Even so, the defense didn’t budge, picking off Ponca City quarterback twice in the first half, the first of which set up Noble’s 41-yard pass to Jon Littell that gave the Pioneers a 14-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game.
“Our team is very talented,” Stillwater senior King Williams said. “When we have both sides of the ball filling in and everybody playing their parts, we can be unstoppable.”
Williams knows a thing or two about being unstoppable. He had 123 of Stillwater’s rushing yards with two touchdowns, the first coming on a 65-yard run with 6:58 left in the first quarter, just seconds after the defense forced Ponca City to turn the ball over on downs.
“I was just thinking, ‘Look for any cutback and when I see a hole, take it,’” Williams said.
And take it he did, jitterbugging down the sideline to give Stillwater a 21-0 lead after the first quarter.
Stillwater only tallied one score in the second quarter, a 6-yard keeper by Noble with 1:38 left in the half to take a 27-0 lead at halftime. But following Barnard’s halftime speech, the Pioneers came out ready to put the game out of reach.
“We have not got to experience much success lately,” Barnard said. “The last time we won a lot of games, these guys were sophomores and they weren’t contributing a whole lot. … We had to make sure we came out in the second half and played hard again.”
Stillwater did just that as the Pioneers forced a three-and-out before Williams again broke the Wildcats’ back with a 34-yard score on Stillwater’s ensuing drive.
The Pioneers tacked on one more score late in the third as Noble again found Littell for a 55-yard strike before Barnard and his staff gave the reserves some playing time in the fourth.
And while Barnard said the team still has things to work on, he said there is some comfort in knowing that nine-game monkey is now off his team’s back.
“We hope this is the start of something good,” Barnard said. “That’s certainly the plan. We’re going to go to work. There’s not a lot that changes in our attitude about how to go about practice. We’ll still try to evaluate everything we do over the course of this weekend and find out what things we need to be changing up next week.”
Along with Williams, Noble had 11 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 10 of 16 passes for 195 yards. Littell led all receivers with seven catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.