Three first-half touchdowns and nearly 300 yards from Papi White were just enough for Seminole to grab its third straight district championship.
In a much-anticipated Week 9 battle of District 3A-2 undefeateds, the No. 2 Chieftains got a 20-14 win over No. 4 Cushing Friday night, but had to survive a furious fourth-quarter rally by the visiting Tigers.
Seminole was up 20-0 and appeared to be firmly in control until Cushing caught fire midway through the final quarter with two quick scores, followed by two successful onside kicks.
Both kick recoveries were made by the same Cushing player, Mason Roberts.
“We WILL get that taken care of,” Seminole head coach Mike Snyder promised after the game.
The spark to the Tiger rally was a 43-yard touchdown pass from Ian Jones to Keegan Myers with 6:39 remaining. Myers caught the ball over White, who mistimed his leap while trying to deflect or pick off the pass at about the 5-yard line.
After the first recovered onside kick, Cushing took advantage of a facemask penalty against the Chieftains and got a 16-yard completion to Drew Wilson before Jai Conley ended the drive with a 24-yard TD catch at the 5:34 mark.
In just over one minute of game time, Seminole’s lead had been cut from 20 points to six.
“We relaxed a little bit there in the fourth quarter,” Snyder said. “They executed very well and made some big catches.”
After Cushing’s second onside kick recovery, the Tigers were threatening to tie or take the lead. On a second-and-8 play at the Seminole 35, the Chieftains got their biggest stop of the night: an interception by Tanner Knox.
“That was a young sophomore, Knox, who has played well all year long,” Snyder said. “He got underneath a curl route, something we’ve worked on. We kept telling him he was going to get one of those and he did at a very crucial time.”
Seminole was able to keep its offense on the field in the game’s closing minutes. Quarterback Doc Harvey earned three first downs — all on running plays — including a 23-yarder to the Cushing 16 that sealed the victory.
White, playing in his final regular-season home game, made the most of his Senior Night. He rushed for 284 yards on 24 carries with 243 of the yards and all three touchdowns coming in the first half. He also caught a 15-yard pass, giving him 299 total yards.
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“I still think he’s the best player in the state of Oklahoma,” Snyder said.
White’s most thrilling run came in the second quarter when he went around the left end, broke a couple of tackles and outran the Tiger secondary all the way to the end zone for an 86-yard TD.
Prior to the game, fans were expecting a big running-back battle between White and Cushing’s Gage Stallworth. Both came in with more than 1,500 yards in eight games.
As it turned out, the running back battle wasn’t close. The Chieftain defense held Stallworth to just 52 yards on 22 carries.
“We did a great job on their running back, which is what we set out to do,” Snyder said. “We didn’t let him get any big, long runs.”
With Stallworth stalled, Cushing relied mainly on its passing game in the second half. Jones finished with 244 yards through the air, completing 15 of his 30 attempts with two interceptions.
Harvey had a lackluster passing night for the Chieftains, with four of his 12 passes caught for 57 yards. The junior signal-caller made up for it with his legs, though, rushing 27 times for 112 yards.
With the district championship secured, Seminole will try to finish the regular season undefeated next Friday at Chandler, which is coming off a 56-26 win over Perkins-Tryon. After that, the Chieftains will get a home game in the first round of the 3A playoffs.