OFF THE RIM: Pioneers pass must-needed test in season opener

Jimmy Gillispie/Stillwater News Press Stillwater High senior quarterback Gunnar Gundy (12) throws a pass to senior wide receiver Anthony Bland (9) during Friday night’s season opener at Edmond Memorial.

Less than four minutes into the second half of Friday night’s contest, the Stillwater High football team received the challenge it needed.

Twenty minutes later, the Pioneers left the new Edmond Memorial stadium with a dominating 42-7 victory. It was an easy victory for the Pioneers, but only after a second-half performance where the SHS squad we all expected came out and lit up the scoreboard.

But, it took a game-tying drive by Memorial to ignite that spark.

Stillwater scored a single touchdown in the first half of the season opener. The Pioneers went three-and-out three times in the half.

The high-flying offense that could score on the ground or through the air with ease didn’t show up the first 24 minutes of the game.

Where did it go?

Was there cause to be concerned?

Not yet.

The hometown Bulldogs took the opening possession of the second half and drove 80 yards in 10 plays. There was a fourth-down conversion, a 15-yard penalty on Stillwater and a 25-yard pass.

It ended with a 5-yard touchdown run. With 8 minutes and 18 seconds left in the third quarter, the Pioneers were tied with a Memorial squad it was favored to beat soundly, as it did the year before.

The first game of the year was hanging in the balance. For a team sky high expectations, it was on the verge of dropping its first game.

Maybe the players overlooked Memorial. They won so easily the year before, so maybe they thought they could go through the motions and walk out victorious.

They needed a gut check. Memorial gave it to them in the first four minutes of the second half.

Following that touchdown, Stillwater went to its bread and butter. Junior running back Qwontrel Walker ran four times for 56 yards and a go-ahead touchdown that sparked a 35-0 unanswered run during the remainder of the half.

Walker carried the ball during the next seven Stillwater plays. Following a game-changing interception by Jake Diaz, Walker ran twice for 10 yards and gave SHS a 21-7 lead.

Stillwater’s defense held Memorial to a pair of first downs after gaining a 14-point lead. Meanwhile, the SHS offense kept scoring with ease.

The Pioneers scored touchdowns the first five series of the second half. The only drive that didn’t score was the final one when they ran out the clock.

Whatever was said at halftime in the Stillwater locker room worked. The Pioneers answered the call, and answered Memorial’s challenge.

Will they come out and play better during the first half of Friday’s home opener? Only time will tell, but it seems like they will. Memorial forced the Pioneers to wake up a bit.

The Bulldogs may have awoken a sleeping giant that is expected to compete for the Class 6A-II state title for the second-straight year.

Jimmy Gillispie is a sports reporter for the Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at jgillispie@stwnewspress.com.

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