Piedmont and Elk City combined for nine turnovers on Friday night. When it came down to crunch time, it was the Wildcats who were able to make the crucial plays and pull out a 26-20 victory.
The game got off to a strange start for Piedmont. The Wildcats returned the ball to Elk City’s 42-yard line but then fumbled on their first offensive snap. Elk City recovered the fumble and marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead at the 7:31 mark of the first quarter.
The Wildcat defense struggled to get pressure on Elk City’s quarterback all night, which allowed the Elks to pick apart Piedmont’s secondary. However, the Wildcats were able to get stops at vital moments.
The first quarter didn’t end well for Piedmont. The defense forced an Elk turnover on downs but a couple play later a Brett Adams pass sailed high and was picked off. The momentum swung back Piedmont’s way when an Elk City fumble was picked up by the Wildcats.
Darrius Burris found pay dirt early in the second quarter off a 19-yard touchdown run. The Wildcats would miss the point after andtrailed Elk City 7-6.
Adams tossed a pair of interceptions late in the second quarter and Piedmont found themselves down 13-6 with under 30 seconds left in the half. The Wildcats didn’t back down with under a minute left in the first half. Piedmont threw together a big drive and Adams found Steffen Funkhouser for a 29-yard score with 9 seconds left before the break to tie it up.
ElkCity went three and out on the first drive of the second half. The teams swapped turnovers on consecutive plays. After a failed fake punt by Piedmont, the Elks started to move the ball down the field. Jared Brown picked off a pass at the 4:36 mark of the third quarter to spark a Wildcat scoring drive. Adams again found Funkhouser for a 29-yard score.
Elk City answered on their next drive with a 28-yard score. The game was all knotted up at 20 going into the final quarter.
The Wildcat defense and Elk City errors combined to force Elk City into a third and 22 early in the fourth quarter. When the Elks failed to convert, Piedmont had great field position. Burris scored his second touchdown of the game from four yards out with 8:50 left in the game.
Anthony Adigun and Brown came up big on the Elks next drive. On a well executed Elk screen pass, Adigun saved a potential game tying touchdown. A couple plays later, Brown jumped high and broke up a pass in the endzone to give the ball back to Piedmont with five minutes to play. The Wildcats were able to melt two minutes from the clock but had to punt. The defense came up big again and forced an incomplete Elk City pass on fourth and four with just over two minutes left to play. Piedmont was able to milk those final two minutes and were able to take the field in victory formation with 57 seconds left in the ball game.
“We stepped up when we needed to,” Kyle Owens said of the Wildcat defense. “We made plays to get the ball to the offense.”
That bend but not break defense proved to be just enough to get past Elk City.
“If we could wave a wand and get rid of those turnovers, this is a vastly different game,” Coach Church said. “This group matured a lot to night. We had a bunch of different kids step up. Kyle Owens with a big kickoff return to give us great field position. Jared Brown batting down that pass. Mitchell (McGinnis) ran the ball hard to offset what we were doing with Darrius was really effective. Our defense did a good job of bending but not breaking.”
Piedmont had to deal with a lot of turnovers on Friday night but they didn’t let those mistakes get them down.
“After that second interception, I went up to Brett and tell him to forget about it,” Funkhouser said. “That was behind us, it was over. We had to go out and play how we play. (As an offense) we’re growing up a lot. We still have to improve and make progress but we are becoming better teammates and a better team.”
This win moved Piedmont to 4-2 on the season and 2-1 in district play.
“This is extremely important,” McGinnis said. “Any district win is important. It gives us some more momentum going into our next game.”
“Winning this game is just as important as winning at a Clinton or an Anadarko,” Church said. “Wins like this are tradition building wins. You build tradition by beating schools and we’ve beaten Elk City two years in a row. When we play Elk City, we know it’s going to be a tough game. There is a bit of a rivalry there but we will find a way to win.”