Deer Creek scored 31 unanswered points in the second half to overcome a 6-0 halftime deficit and beat rival Piedmont 31-13 Friday night at Wildcat Field in both teams’ District 5A II opener.
It was the Antlers eighth consecutive win over Piedmont in a rivalry that’s turned lopsided in recent years.
The Antlers (1-3, 1-0) offense, which managed just 83 total yards in the first half, erupted in the third quarter using its vertical passing game to rack up 21 points and more than 200 yards to take control of the game.
“They made some adjustments in the second half and really went to the outside and challenged our corners,” Piedmont head coach Drew Gossen said. “They made a couple of plays with it and unfortunately a couple of those plays were big and caught us in some bad spots.”
It was the second time in as many weeks Piedmont led a scoreless opponent at half only to see them catch fire later in the game. Piedmont led Noble 7-0 at half the week prior, but lost 34-19.
“There’s several facets to it probably,” Gossen said of the slow finishes. “We’ve been trying to buckle down on conditioning. I think we were better today, but some of it’s just that mental part of the game. Can you go for four quarters?”
Antlers quarterback Clayton Sims connected on scoring strikes of 69 and 33 yards in the decisive third quarter and finished the game 11-of-22 passing for 279 yards and two scores after throwing for just 43 yards in the first half. Zach Kerstetter, who caught a 69-yard touchdown pass, also accounted for a 6-yard rushing score in the third.
Deer Creek took the lead on Sims and Kerstetter’s 69-yard connection, then padded it when Kerstetter scored from six yards out less than three minutes later. A Noah McGraw 33-yard catch and score capped the Creek’s third-quarter rally and made it 21-6 with 1:49 to play in the quarter.
“One of the things we talked about at halftime was to increase the pace and tempo,” Deer Creek head coach Grant Gower said. “The faster we go, the better we are. We challenged our guys to do that in the second half.”
Piedmont’s offense couldn’t muster a response. Playing in his first game back from a preseason knee injury, senior quarterback Lucas Richert helped put Piedmont (0-4, 0-1) on top 6-0 with a 68-yard touchdown throw to Steffen Funkhouser with 4:28 to play in the second quarter. But the Wildcats didn’t find the end zone again until Richert and Easton Fenton connected on a 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:38 to play.
In between the two scores Deer Creek’s Bryson Bowers intercepted Richert and returned the ball 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Antlers a 31-6 lead with just less than seven minutes to play, ending any thoughts of a Piedmont rally.
“That was the thing that was so good to see, our young men work so hard, to see them come up with those kinds of plays to put the game away was good,” Gower said.
Richert finished 15-of-32 for 242 yards and two scores to go with four interceptions.
“You could see his arm tonight, he can really sling it,” Gossen said. “We had some timing issues, but that’s natural when you’re coming out and your footwork is a little off because you’ve been down for a while. He looked good, though, we were happy with what he saw out of him.”
For the third time in four weeks Piedmont’s rushing attack was non-existent. The Wildcats ran the ball 25 times for negative-15 yards.
“We had a few good things that happened in the run game here and there, but could never get any real traction going,” Gossen said. “Overall the running game is still in a bad place.”
Deer Creek’s Kiwanis Roberts rushed 18 times for 78 yards to lead the Antlers, who had 413 yards of total offense to Piedmont’s 229.
The road doesn’t get easier for Piedmont. The Wildcats travel to perennial 5A power Guthrie next Friday.