Piedmont’s quest for a district title is alive and well.
The Wildcats navigated the first part of a three-game gauntlet to close the season Thursday night at Wildcat Stadium with a 22-14 win over perennial Class 5A power Guthrie behind three touchdowns from quarterback Noah Ellis and a strong defensive effort that forced six Blue Jay turnovers.
Each team committed three turnovers in the first half and Piedmont (6-2, 5-0 in District 5A-2) trailed 14-6 at intermission, but never panicked.
“That was probably my favorite thing about this game. We started out with a lot of adversity. There are a lot of people who kind of count out Piedmont in a game like this,” head coach Drew Gossen said. “Our guys could’ve shut it down and yet they fought through it. That’s the one thing about this team. They’ve figured out how to win.”
Ellis finished only 7 of 19 passing for 70 yards, but made his completions count. Ellis twice connected with senior receiver Koy Priddy for scores. First, on a 38-yard pass with 11:51 in the second quarter for the Wildcats only score of the half and again on a crucial fourth-down-and goal from the 8-yard line that pulled Piedmont within two, 14-12, with 9:06 to play in the third quarter.
Ellis, who’s developed a strong connection with Priddy this season, said there was never any doubt he was throwing his way on the critical fourth down play.
“He’s a gamer and he’s really reliable catching the ball,” Ellis said. “I liked the matchup. I wanted to go to him all the way there.”
After Dylan Meador kicked a 20-yard field goal to give Piedmont a 15-14 lead with 11:10 to play, Tanner Knight came up with his second interception of the night to put the Wildcats in position to put the game away.
“I thought I was beat and took off running,” Knight said. “I looked up, jumped and caught it.”
Ellis added his third touchdown of the game — a 3-yard run — on Piedmont’s next possession to put the ‘Cats in front 22-14 with 2:13 left.
The drive was twice kept alive on fourth down by Guthrie penalties. Once on an offsides call and another on the Blue Jays’ third sideline interference infraction of the game. Guthrie (4-4, 2-3) committed 12 penalties for 105 yards.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior captain Wesley Acuff recovered a ball that Guthrie never touched to seal the victory.
“To have that seal the game is awesome,”Gossen said. “I’m happy for him because he’s a great kid.”
Piedmont’s Landon White was held under 100 yards for just the second time all season, but still totaled 77 yards on 28 carries. Guthrie was held to 100 yards of total offense by Piedmont’s defense.
Though it was all but a certainty already, Piedmont officially clinched its first postseason berth since 2011. The Wildcats play at Carl Albert next Friday.
“We put ourselves in position last week and this week we made it official.” Gossen said. “It feels so good to be in a spot where we’re in the playoffs and still in a position to be successful and maybe make a run at that title.”