STILLWATER – If Sand Springs was to pull the upset against No. 2 Stillwater on Friday, the Sandites were likely going to need the ball bounce their way in the early stages.
Instead, the Charles Page High School defense was victimized by an unfortunate break in the first quarter at Pioneer Stadium, a play that proved to be a precursor of things to come in the Class 6AII quarterfinal matchup.
Trailing 7-0 with the ball on the Stillwater 39, the Sandites looked like they might come up with the game’s first turnover when Pioneer quarterback Caleb Allen underthrew a deep pass and Sandite defensive back Daren Hawkins was poised to make the interception. But the ball bounced off of Hawkins and right into the arms of Steven Brown at around the Sandite 20. Brown ran the rest of the way into the endzone.
“I told them when you have an opportunity to make plays, you’ve got to make them,” said CPHS coach Bobby Klinck. “When you give really good teams gifts like that, it’s not going to be a really good night.”
CPHS answered Brown’s long play with a touchdown before Stillwater scored 28 unanswered points, grabbed a 42-7 halftime lead and went on to deal the Sandites a season-ending 49-17 loss.
The Sandites finished the year with a 7-5 record. Stillwater remained unbeaten at 9-0 and advanced to the state semifinals where it will face Choctaw (8-3).
Pioneers star senior running back Qwontrel Walker, who was coming off of a season-low 105 yards in his last game, finished with 174 rushing yards and three touchdowns on nine carries, all of which came in the first half. Walker scored on runs of 19, 66 and 1 yards. He also broke off runs of 37 and 47 yards.
“He’s impressive,” Klinck said of Walker. “He’s got a really good offensive line and he does a good job of utilizing them. You kind of combine that tailback and the offensive line with all the RPOs they show and it gives you a lot of headaches.”
The Pioneer offense tallied 432 yards in the first half as Allen threw for 272 yards and three scores.
Despite the lopsided score, CPHS did have some bright spots in the second half.
The Sandites put together their best offensive series of the game to open the third quarter as CPHS marched from its own 26 to inside Stillwater 10. But a Ty Pennington pass into the endzone was dropped on fourth down and forced a turnover on downs.
Three plays later, junior cornerback Ryder Barnes stepped in front of an Allen pass and returned the interception 17 yards for a touchdown with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
“Ryder’s one of those guys who is coachable,” Klinck said. “We were able to work some coverage over there. The play presented itself and he made the play. I was really happy for him. Everybody was happy for him. He’s one of the favorites on the team.”
Senior kicker Zach Heinen capped off his steady season on special teams with a career-long 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Pennington, who was under pressure all game long, finished 16-of-23 passing for 174 yards and added 36 rushing yards, including a 1-yard TD plunge in the first quarter. Tyyee Atkinson paced CPHS with 64 yards on the ground. Jacob Blevins tallied two receptions for a team-best 83 yards.
The Sandite offensive line was hampered early on when senior Jacinto Rodriguez left the game with a broken ankle.
Despite the loss, CPHS finished Klinck’s first season with more wins than the previous two years combined and the program’s highest single-season victory total since 2014.
“I’m just happy with these seniors that they wanted something better,” Klinck said. “I’m very happy they wanted something better than what happened before. They have laid the foundation going forward.”
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