It’s often said there are no moral victories in a football game, but for one quarter against Tulsa Union, the Stillwater High School football team was on top of the world.
The defense played out of its mind, the offense opened holes big enough to drive a tractor trailer through and even the special teams won the battle for field possession.
Yet it wasn’t enough as Union scored 48 unanswered points — 27 in the second quarter alone — to beat the Pioneers 62-21 Friday.
“We wanted to approach the game like a boxing match,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “We knew what we were up against. We knew we were the underdogs, but we wanted to come out and get in the middle and swing away.”
At times, Stillwater (1-4, 1-1 in district) did that, showing signs of being able to compete with the eight-time state champions, even in hostile territory. But Union (3-2, 2-0 in district) just had too many athletes and had too many big plays for the Pioneers to pull off the upset.
“Obviously, they out-executed us with our offense versus their defense,” Barnard said. “I don’t know if you can point to one thing. There were a lot of things going on that allowed them to (have success).”
It looked like the Pioneers might have a chance for an upset after Stillwater began the game with a big stop on fourth down deep in its own end to open the game.
“We just came out with the right mind that we knew we had to win,” Stillwater senior King Williams said. “That’s all we had in our sight right in front of us was winning.”
Stillwater’s defense continued to carry the team as Marlon McDonald picked off Mason Farquhar at the Union 45-yard line. Two plays later, King Williams raced through a gaping hole for a 45-yard touchdown and it looked like an upset might be brewing.
“I wasn’t going to let them catch me,” Williams said. “I saw the hole open up and if it’s open I’m going to go score.”
But it didn’t take long for Union to answer as Kaylor Pearson returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to even the score at 7-7 with 6:42 left in the first quarter.
Union managed to get on the board once more before the quarter ended as Tyler Adkins broke free for a 9-yard run, but that’s all the Redskins got as Stillwater remained in striking distance heading into the second quarter.
“It was a major confidence boost,” Williams said. “It let our defense know that we’re able to compete with them and our offense showed us that if our defense could get a stop our offense needs to capitalize.”
That’s when things started to escalate quickly.
After another Adkins’ touchdown — this one from 1 yard out — Farquhar hit Pearson for a 38-yard strike. Union then struck twice in the span of two minutes as a Farquhar found Will Hamilton for an 11-yard score before a blocked punt set up Jeffery Meads’ 5-yard touchdown catch with 34 seconds left in the half to give Union a 41-7 lead.
“At halftime, we talked about Ray Lewis’ quote that says, ‘Your effort is between you and you,’” Barnard said. “We challenged them. The scoreboard doesn’t effect your effort. Tulsa Union doesn’t effect your effort. Only you can control that. We just wanted to come out and play hard and give it our best effort in the second half.”
Another blocked punt recovered in the end zone led to Union’s seventh touchdown, but this time Stillwater had an answer.
Braxton Noble hit Jordan Brown for a 52-yard strike to close the gap to 48-14 with 9:51 left in the third.
Both teams traded touchdowns over the final eight minutes — with Brown hauling in his second score on a 2-yard reception — but Stillwater never could close the gap completely.
Union tacked on one more score on a 27-yard run by Shamari Brooks with 4:39 left in the fourth to seal the game, but even in the loss Williams said the team has something to build upon as they prepare for Booker T. Washington next week.
“Everybody was pretty nervous about facing Union, so now that we got that out of the way I think our team is pretty confident,” Williams said. “It’s like hitting a speed bump. Now that we got that speed bump out of the way, we just have to finish taking on the world.”
Williams led all rushers with eight carries for 55 yards and a touchdown. Noble also ran the ball nine times for 52 yards and completed 12 of 25 passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.