Meeker — "No one has ever practiced on Thanksgiving in Meeker...until now."
Meeker — "No one has ever practiced on Thanksgiving in Meeker...until now." Those were the enthusiastic words of Meeker head coach Mike Hedge on a frigid Saturday afternoon after his #6 Bulldogs (12-0) beat the Nowata Ironmen 20-14 to earn a quarterfinal spot next Friday night in the state playoffs against the Millwood Falcons (12-0), the #1 team in Class 2A. Meeker definitely kept it interesting: Meeker turned the ball over 5 times, 3 fumbles and 2 interceptions. There were the three personal fouls against Meeker. Next was the15-play drive kept alive by a fake punt to regain a first-half lead. Then came a 4th quarter touchdown for the go-ahead score with 5:44 remaining. However, the biggest play came with only 36 seconds left in the game. With #10 Nowata (10-2) facing a 4th and 1 inside the Meeker 30, the Bulldogs defense stuffed the Ironman quarterback for no gain to preserve the win. Meeker received the opening kickoff and wasted little time moving the ball. Despite starting at its own 8, the Bulldogs were across midfield only five plays later. However, quarterback Jake Standlee was intercepted and the drive ended. Austin Watlington got the ball back for the Bulldogs on the next play, though, when he recovered a fumble on Nowata's first play of the game. Two plays later, Dallas Jackson fumbled the ball back to Nowata. Meeker's defense then forced back-to-back three and outs. Between those two series for the Ironman, Meeker put together a 9-play 55-yard drive that looked to produce the game's first points, but Standlee fumbled inside the Nowata 10. Dallas Jackson finally did get the 'Dogs on the scoreboard with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter on a 21-yard run around the Ironman defense. The point-after attempt was blocked. Nowata answered two minutes later on a 39-yard run by Nate Moore. The PAT was good and Nowata led 7-6 as the first quarter ended. Meeker then pieced together a 15-play 59-yard scoring drive to regain the first half lead. Highlighted on the series was a successful fake punt as Meeker faced a 4th and 10 from midfield. Standlee kept the ball and scampered through the defense for an 11-yard gain and a first down. Tim Whitfield scored with 9:29 remaining in the half as the Bulldogs took a 12-7 lead into the locker room at the half. Nowata took the lead back, 14-12, in the second half on 15-yard run by Cory Hobbs. In fact, the Ironmen dominated the second half. They had 10 first downs compared to Meeker's 5, and they ran 35 plays to Meeker's 18. Meeker began its last offensive series with 7:44 remaining in the game at its own 28. Hedge said about that final drive: "I said to our coaches, 'When we get the ball back, we're going to give it the fullback (Whitfield) until they stop him." Whitfield carried five times on the drive on runs of 14, 1, 5, 5, and 6 yards. Leven Hendley also burst through the Ironman defense for a 32-yard run. Standlee then scored on a 1-yard keeper with 5:44 remaining. Hendley scored on the conversion run, closing the scoring and providing the game's final of 20-14. Then came the biggest series of the game. Nowata had one final chance to end the Bulldogs' perfect season. They began at their own 30 and marched inside the Meeker 30 in 11 plays before facing a 4th and 1 with 36 seconds remaining in the game. The Ironmen spread the defense with five receivers, but the Bulldogs were not fooled. Ironman quarterbackWyatt Steigerwald was stopped for no gain, and Standlee took a knee in the victory formation on the final play of the game. Hedge said, "Our kids wanted to win. You could tell our kids were used to winning games late there in the game because they refused to let Nowata take over." Meeker has now outscored its opponents 563-91 en route to its 12-0 record. They beat Hugo 49-20 last week. Millwood, also 12-0, has outscored its opponents 635-129. Millwood has beaten Tonkawa (72-0) and Kingston (60-6) to get to the quarterfinals.