NOBLE — The Ada High School football team used a furious finish, highlighted by several big plays, to break open a tight game and bury the eighth-ranked Noble Bears 45-21 Friday night in a Week 2 road game.
Both teams are now 1-1 on the season.
Ada led just 24-21 with 8:32 left in the game before scoring 21 quick, unanswered points.
“I’m proud of the grit our kids showed throughout. Our players did a tremendous job of staying in the moment and not allowing adversity to get in the way of what was in front of us,” said Ada head coach Chris Berus.
The Bears took advantage of an almost comical play to get within striking distance.
Ada punter Tovan Thomsen dropped a snap and kicked the ball while it was rolling around on the ground. The ultimate result was a three-yard loss and gave the Bears the ball at the Cougar 36.
Two receptions by Noble receiver Isaiah Willhoite — a 29-yard grab over the middle and a 7-yard TD reception in the right corner of the end zone — and the Bears had pulled within three.
The ensuing kickoff pinned the Cougars at their own 8-yard line and at that point, the Bears had all the momentum.
However, on the first play, Ada sophomore quarterback Zac Carroll scrambled to his left and found receiver Kobe Burgess streaking down the far sideline with about a half a step on two Noble defenders. Burgess hauled in the pass near midfield and outraced the Noble defense to the end zone for a back-breaking 92-yard score. After a Thomsen PAT kick, Ada led 31-21 with 8:19 to play.
“We believe in our players. (Offensive coordinator Tyler) Dorton dialed it up, and the kids executed,” Berus said. “There are many parts to a play like that — pass protection, the route and then, obviously, the throw. Zac threw a great ball, and Kobe knows how to go up and get it. It was a nice answer to a score and poor field position.”
After a Noble kickoff return gave the Bears the ball at midfield, Ada senior Tanner Gilliam picked off an errant pass from Noble quarterback Hayden Lingle and returned the interception 71 yards for a breath-taking touchdown that pushed the Ada advantage to 38-21 with 7:09 left.
Rogers ended the next Noble drive with a fumble recovery. It was the seventh turnover of the night for the Bears.
Ada used some strong running from sophomore running back Kohner Gallagher, who eventually scored from a yard out to tack on the final touchdown of the night for the Cougars to give Ada the 24-point victory.
Not much went the Cougars’ way to start the game. Ada had two turnovers in the first quarter — an interception by Noble’s Naythen Hill and a lost fumble — and also missed a 44-yard field goal.
Lingle connected with Willhoite at the 7:51 mark of the second period to give the hosts a 7-0 lead. It was the start of a big night for the senior Noble wideout, who hauled in 10 catches for 175 yards and all three Noble scores.
Ada sophomore receiver Haden Sparks set up Ada’s first touchdown with an impressive 80-yard catch and run that got his team down to the Noble 3-yard line. Carroll scored on a second-down keeper, and the first of six Thomsen PAT kicks tied the score at 7-7 at the 5:37 mark of the second period.
Seconds later, Jaycob Gray recovered a fumble for the Cougars that led to a 32-yard Thomsen field goal that gave the Cougars a 10-7 lead.
Ada tried to tack on some more points right before halftime following a Burgess interception. A big 32-yard reception by Sparks gave the Cougars the ball at the Noble 5. Sparks suffered a leg injury on the play and did not return.
“Haden is a big, physical receiver with a great presence. He had two explosive plays for us before the injury,” Berus said. “We’re not sure of the extent. We should find out more during the first part of the week.”
However, the Noble defense pushed the Cougars back from there, and the Bears blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by Thomsen as time expired.
“What I am most excited about is the poise our kids had during the contest. Not many things went well for us during the first half, and we kept chipping away,” Berus said. “Our staff was excellent at making adjustments and teaching our players from one series to the next.”
Following a third-quarter Noble turnover, Carroll connected with Jake Shannon for a 12-yard touchdown that put Ada on top 17-7 at the 6:05 mark.
Noble answered with a 38-yard Lingle-to-Willhoite touchdown, and the Bears had pulled within 17-14 with 4:41 left in the third frame.
Burgess then followed a nice kickoff return by catching a short first-down pass, running down the far sideline, cutting back across the middle of the field and zooming into the end zone with a 62-yard touchdown reception. Ada led 24-14 at the 4:30 mark of the third period.
That set up the frenetic fourth quarter.
Burgess later added a fumble recovery to his big night. He finished with four catches for 180 yards and the two scores in his 2018 debut.
Carroll, in just his second varsity start, completed 12-of-19 passes for 333 yards. The lefty threw three touchdowns and had one interception. Lingle finished the game 17-of-32 for 268 yards with two interceptions for Noble.
Ada managed just 61 yards on the ground. Walt LaBove led the way with nine carries for 35 yards.
The Cougars overcame 10 penalties for 106 yards.
Leading the way for the AHS defense were Matt Maloy with seven tackles and a pass break-up, and Braden Maloy and Tyler Bellard with five stops apiece. Rogers had four tackles, a quarterback sack, and a tackle for loss and caused two fumbles. Braden Moore also had four tackles to go with a PBU, a caused fumble and a tackle for loss.
“We are learning how to be a physical football team, and I believe we won the hitting game tonight,” Berus said. “We love the wins, but what I enjoy most is what we find out about ourselves.”
Ada will make its 2018 home debut Friday night, when Duncan visits Norris Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.