Stillwater News Press

November 8, 2013

Pioneers fall short in season finale with Owasso

By Nick Snow
Stillwater NewsPress

OWASSO, Okla. — For a game that’s played in over 6,000 square yards of space, it’s hard to believe sometimes an inch or two can make all the difference in a football game.

Friday, the Stillwater High School football team learned that lesson the hard way in a 30-20 loss to Owasso, effectively ending their season and dashing any playoff hopes the team had before the game.

A field goal that bounced over the crossbar and the inability to score from the 1-inch line before time ran out in the first half could have turned what was a loss into a Stillwater win.

“They say it’s a game of inches and there was a lot of truth to that,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “A few inches on the field goal and a few inches on that play right before half where Jon (Littell) is so close, it could have been a different ball game.”

Stillwater (2-8, 2-5 in district) got some bounces, recovering three of the six Owasso fumbles — including one for a 44-yard touchdown by King Williams — but it wasn’t enough to keep Stillwater’s season alive.

“We can look back at all of these situation maybe even everything outside of Tulsa Union and talk about how close we were,” Barnard said. “It’s tough, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.”

The Rams (5-5, 4-3) began the game by putting together a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ate 3:17 off the clock before Owasso quarterback Gabe Neph finally punched it in from 3 yards out.

It looked like Owasso might make it a two-score game before the Stillwater defense rose to the occasion, stripping Daulton Esmeyer. From there King Williams did the rest, scooping up the lose pigskin and sprinting 44 yards untouched for the score to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:05 left in the first quarter following Zach Bryant’s extra point.

“It’s awesome,” Barnard said. “That just showed you the way these guys have battled and the attitude they’ve kept. They did that all night. Teams that finish with two wins are not supposed to be battling like this but they did.”

After putting together another nine-play, 59-yard drive that resulted in Neph’s second rushing touchdown, things continued to bounce Owasso’s way — literally.

Landen Sailing’s 40-yard field goal hit the crossbar and bounced over with 3:29 left in the half to give Owasso a 17-7 lead.

Stillwater drove the length of the field on its ensuing possession but the Pioneers came a yard short as time ran out on the half.

“We could have kicked a field goal and we thought about kicking a field goal,” Barnard said. “But ultimately, we didn’t think we were going to win this game by kicking field goals. We felt like we needed touchdowns.”

Despite coming up just inches short in the final possession of the first half, the Pioneers finally finished what they started, thanks to a couple of key catches by Brandon Prather. Cameron Mayberry then burst through for a 3-yard score, closing the gap to 17-14 with 6:53 left in the third quarter.

Stillwater’s defense continued to hold, shutting out Owasso in the third quarter, but it was a different story in the fourth quarter as Neph took control of the game.

The junior got Owasso on the board with a 24-yard scamper with 8:28 left in the fourth. He then found his brother Cole Neph with a 24-yard strike with 5:12 left in the game that proved to be the final nail in Stillwater’s coffin.

Stillwater did manage to get on the board late in the fourth quarter as Jon Littell found Marlon McDonald for a 5-yard swing pass, but by then it was too little, too late.

“It’s a hard night and hard to take the loss, but I’m happy with the way we went out,” Barnard said.