Winning road football games is something the Coweta Tigers have down to a fine art, but they’d like to play one at home before the end of the regular season.
That may happen next week, but in the meantime they can spend a few days savoring the District 5A-3 championship they wrapped up in emphatic fashion Friday night.
Junior quarterback Gage Hamm accounted for 364 yards and five touchdowns and the No. 5 Tigers rallied for a 42-27 triumph over No. 1 Bishop Kelley before an estimated 4,500 fans jammed into Angelo Prassa Field on a gorgeous October evening.
“We’d like to play a home game, but we can win anywhere we had to,” said Hamm, who rushed for four TDs and threw a 6-yard pass to Gunnar McCollough for another score.
Coweta improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in district games. With Shawnee losing at McAlester, nobody in District 5A-3 can match the Tigers in wins, even if Coweta were to lose its final regular-season game to last-place Durant.
That game could be played at Tiger Stadium because workers were about to complete installation of a new artificial surface.
“They’re probably putting the rubber in it right now,” said second-year coach Tim Harper, who said his players have worked for the district title.
“They didn’t earn it tonight, they’ve been earning it since last November,” he said. “They’ve worked their tails off and I love every one of them.”
Coweta built a 14-0 lead early, were tied at halftime when Kelley quarterback Gabe Harju lit up the airways with 68- and 51-yard TD passes to Grayson Hall, trailed twice in the third quarter and then scored the final 21 points, all on Hamm rushing TDs.
Kelley led 27-21 on Owen Heinecke’s brilliant 70-yard sprint down the left sideline with 1:20 left in the third quarter but the Comets missed the extra point and Coweta took the lead for good on Hamm’s 1-yard plunge and Brody Rucker’s fourth of six extra points with 10:36 left.
Next, the Tigers’ Michael Fletcher recovered a Kelley fumble and Coweta and Hamm’s 14-yard run capped a 39-yard drive and made it 35-27 with 6:27 left. Another Hamm run put the game out of reach.
Kelley, led by Harju’s 226 passing yards and Heinecke’s 156 yards on 21 carries, fell to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in district play. The Comets end the regular season at Shawnee next Friday night in a game that could impact second, third and fourth place in the district.
Unofficially, Hamm rushed for 200 yards on 24 carries and threw for 164 more as the Tigers unwound a defense that had allowed only 11.3 points per game.
McCollough had five catches for 67 yards and sophomore receiver Mason Ford had 108 yards rushing and three receptions for 66 yards.
Coweta mounted 90- and 87-yard first-half touchdown drives, but Harju and Hall needed only two plays to erase the Tigers’ 14-0 lead.
Harju threw 68 yards to Hall nine seconds after Coweta had scored its second TD of the first half and hooked up again for 51 yards with 32 seconds left in the second quarter and the teams were tied at intermission.
On Coweta’s opening drive, Ford went 64 yards to the Kelley 1 on fourth-and-1, setting up Ham’s quarterback sneak.
Kelley drove to the Coweta 12 but Coweta’s Hank Searcy caused a fumble, Carson Flanary recovered and the Tigers drove 90 yards to make it 14-0. Two plays were striking. Hamm threw 26 yards to Ford down the left sideline and Ford blazed around left end for the final 27 yards of the drive on the next play.
Kelley took the lead on Heinecke’s 1-yard run in the third quarter and retook on his 70-yard, sideline hugging run later in the third quarter.
But that’s when Hamm took over the game.
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