For weeks, Class 6A-II District 1 has been building toward a crescendo this Friday night.
Stillwater High has remained undefeated, powering through opponents week after week. The Pioneers (9-0 overall, 6-0 district) have made mince meat of every opponent after a slow first half in the season opener at Edmond Memorial.
Del City has also beaten every district foe since falling to Class 5A reigning state champ Carl Albert in nondistrict action. The Eagles haven’t been as dominant, but have a winning margin of 31.2 points during their six district contests.
“It’s finally here,” SHS coach Tucker Barnard said. “I don’t think I can honestly say that we looked this far ahead to say this would be a district championship game. Maybe as the season started playing out, it kind of started looking that way. Our district has been kind of a mess ever since I’ve been here to where you’re never really know what’s going to happen. Del City has done their part and beaten everybody pretty badly, and we’ve done our part. So, here we go. Let’s see what happens.”
Now it comes down to Friday night at Pioneer Stadium. The winner earns the No. 1 seed, while the loser falls to the No. 2 seed.
Both teams will host a postseason game in the first round of the 6A-II playoffs next week. The only difference is the seeding of the opponent.
The Stillwater-Del City winner could face Sapulpa if it wins at Ponca City this week. If Sapulpa loses, then it could create a three-way tie with Bartlesville and Ponca City if Bartlesville defeats Shawnee. The Stillwater-Del City loser will host Booker T. Washington in the playoffs.
On Friday, it’s all on the line. The No. 2 and No. 3-ranked teams in 6A-II will battle for the second-straight year. Stillwater won, 35-21, last year at Del City after overcoming a 14-6 halftime deficit.
The Pioneers scored the final three touchdowns of the game as they outscored Del City 29-7 in the second half. The final three scores all came from running back Qwontrel Walker, who rushed for 262 yards on 33 carries.
Unfortunately for Stillwater, Walker’s status is questionable or doubtful for Friday’s game. He injured his ankle two games ago at Putnam City West and missed last week’s game. As of Tuesday afternoon, Barnard was unsure of Walker’s status this week.
“He didn’t look very good today,” Barnard said. “I don’t know if he’ll play. We’ll do our best with whoever we’ve got. There’s no time now to make excuses.”
If Walker is out of the lineup again, the Pioneers’ offense will fall to senior quarterback Gunnar Gundy, as it has all season. The three-year starter has been steady as the Stillwater signal caller since the beginning of his sophomore season, but more so this fall.
Gundy has completed 75 percent (141 of 188) of his passes for 2,401 yards and 34 touchdowns to just one interception. He’s just 17 yards shy of his yardage total from last year, when he completed 62.9 percent (143 of 227) of his passes, while already throwing for nine more touchdowns this year.
“I’m trying to stay more focused and not lose track of my training,” Gundy said. “I’m just trying to keep it basic and not lose the stuff I worked on during the offseason. The hard part now is just bearing down and stay focused, and do the small things right. The rest will take care of itself.”
While Gundy primarily attacks defenses through the air, Del City quarterback Quinlan Ganther is a dual-threat for the Eagles. Ganther has completed 62.9 percent (90 of 143) of his passes for 1,335 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. He’s also ran for 751 yards and seven touchdowns on 108 carries.
Barnard said the Pioneers are preparing to face the first true dual-threat QB of the season.
“He’s a real threat running the football,” Barnard said. “They’ve got a couple of tailbacks that they use, but he’s as good of a runner as anybody. I’m kind of expecting a heavy dose of a ground attack, and we’ll see if we can hold up.”
Before Friday’s contest, SHS will honor this year’s senior class as its the last regular season home game. The Pioneers will host a home playoff game next week, but senior night will be this week.
It will be an emotional beginning to the night, but Barnard believes his seniors will be able to refocus a few minutes later when the game begins.
“It’s always a strange deal,” Barnard said. “You come out before the game and you’re nostalgic, and their moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas are there, and people are crying. It’s such a strange pre-game atmosphere. People talk about homecoming, but most of the time the guys aren’t emotional about homecoming. When you get into this time and you’re talking about senior night, it strikes up a different emotion. The challenge is channeling that into a positive place.”
Follow Jimmy Gillispie on Twitter @jgillispie_stw for Stillwater High football updates and live updates Friday night.