PAWNEE – Mangum wandered into the Pawnee Black Bears’ muddy den on Friday night, and the Tigers’ semifinal hopes did not escape alive.
Behind its bruising offensive line, Pawnee pounded its way to a 64-7 victory at home in the OSSAA Class A quarterfinals. It heads to the semifinals the first time since 2004 and will play Cashion next Friday at a neutral location for a spot in the championship game.
The Blacks Bears rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns on 45 carries, and the Tigers’ defense was shell-shocked for most of the contest. For the second-straight game, Pawnee did not attempt a pass. It didn’t need to.
Senior lineman Zach Buchanan played a big role in opening sizable holes for the Black Bear rushers, something he and his teammates have done all season.
“You can’t stop the dozer,” Buchanan said. “... Their defensive linemen had not faced anyone like us. We will hit you in the mouth, and we proved that tonight.”
The Black Bears started out perfectly, scoring on their second offensive play of the game with a Blake Skidgel 52-yard rush. Skidgel said his offensive line was incredible against the Tigers.
“They were doing great,” Skidgel said. “Probably the best game ever that they’ve had.”
Mangum (11-2) answered back with a 75-yard pass from quarterback Colton Laughlin to Fischer Webb, only for it to be called back after the referees ruled Webb had stepped out after a 20-yard play. It was the first of two touchdowns that the Tigers had called back, but they didn’t have much breathing room offensively for most of the night.
Mangum’s opening drive stalled, and Pawnee went back on the attack. Skidgel added another score, this time from five yards out, and Trevor Mitchell scored a 17-yard rushing touchdown to give Pawnee a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second and third quarters were more of the same for the Black Bears. Skidgel had no trouble scoring three more rushing touchdowns, and the other phases of the game got in on the touchdown party. Chad Mitchell took a 29-yard interception return back for a score with 8:50 left in the third quarter, and Trevor Mitchell flew by Mangum defenders for a 70-yard punt return less than two minutes later.
Pawnee coach Russell Cook said his team’s ability to keep the intensity up stemmed from its regular season finale. The Black Bears almost gave up a 22-point lead to district foe Pawhuska, but they snuck out with a victory. The memory of that near-collapse contributed to their retention of momentum on Friday.
“Pawhuska was a learning curve for us,” Cook said. “Ever since that game, our kids have been saying, ‘All gas, no brakes,’ and I think they’ve been following that motto to a T.”
Pawnee (13-0) led 58-0 at the end of the third quarter, as the Black Bears were figuratively shooting flares up in the sky to warn the rest of the state about their offensive firepower. The first three quarters were an emphatic statement that the Black Bears are gunning for a state championship.
Backups and younger players received snaps in the fourth quarter, and Mangum ended the game with a consolation prize touchdown. The game, though, had long been decided.
Pawnee dominated in every facet against a strong opponent and maintained its perfect record on the season. Skidgel led the team in rushing with 199 yards and five touchdowns.
For Buchanan and Pawnee, the victory was another chapter in the team’s pursuit of winning it all, something that hasn’t happened in the town since before Buchanan was in school.
“It’s a great time,” Buchanan said. “I’m lovin’ it. The community is behind us really showing their support. We’re just doing what we do. No one can stop us.”