The Ada Cougars used a number of big plays to overcome some unusual sloppiness and pulled away for a 42-19 win over Elgin in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday night at Norris Field.
Ada improved to 8-3 overall, while the Owls saw their season come to an end at 5-6. The win was No. 800 in the storied history of Ada — one of only 22 teams in the nation to reach that figure.
The seventh-ranked Cougars will host No. 3 Oologah in a Class 4A quarterfinal game Friday night at Norris Field.
“We did a lot of things well and too many things not so well. It’s playoff football. It’s about doing enough to win and advance. We’ll get that stuff corrected and hopefully play a little cleaner football next week,” said Ada head coach Chris Berus.
The Cougar defense came up with four interceptions — three by Kylen Cooper — and added three quarterback sacks and eight tackles for loss to help overcome a pair of Ada turnovers and a special teams snafu.
Elgin shocked the Cougars by scoring in the first 20 seconds of the game.
Ada got the ball first and on its first offensive play, there appeared to be confusion in the backfield, resulting in a fumble. Elgin’s Pepper Farrell recovered the ball.
On the Owls’ first play from scrimmage, quarterback Braeden Shackleford connected with receiver JJ Johnson for a 33-yard touchdown. After Kyle Morgan kicked the extra point, the Owls were on top 7-0 at the 11:40 mark of the opening quarter.
After Ada pinned Elgin deep in its own territory later in the quarter, Cooper returned a punt 19 yards to set up the Cougars at the EHS 29. Cooper got Ada close with a 13-yard catch and Grant Bellard finished the drive off with a 7-yard TD run that knotted the game at 7-7 at the 6:01 mark of the first quarter.
Ada got a 19-yard touchdown reception by Zach Powell wiped out by a penalty with just over seven minutes left in the second period and that drive ended on an incomplete fourth-down pass.
The Cougars then scored twice in the final 1:33 of the second period.
Starting at the EHS 43 after an Elgin penalty, Ada needed just five plays to get into the end zone — including a 21-yard keeper by quarterback Jackson McFarlane. Walt Labove, who made a number of big plays throughout the contest, finished the drive with a 3-yard TD run that put Ada ahead 14-7 with 1:33 left in the first half.
Ada’s defense — led by a sack from freshman Kohner Gallagher — stopped Elgin on its next drive and forced Elgin to punt from its own 6-yard line.
The Cougars started at the EHS 41, but there were only 55 seconds left in the second quarter. However, Labove took a handoff 34 yards for a touchdown with just 22 ticks left that gave Ada a 21-7 halftime edge. Labove was nearly stopped at the EHS 5 but muscled his way into the end zone for his second TD run of the contest.
The Cougars dominated the first-half stat sheet despite their offense not being as crisp as they would have liked. Ada still had 168 total yards and limited the Owls to 42, including minus 11 rushing yards.
Cooper nabbed his first interception of the game on Elgin’s first drive of the third quarter. He caught the ball near the sideline and tip-toed the line to stay inbounds. It appeared that Shackleford was trying to throw the ball away while under heavy duress by the Cougar defense.
Ada didn’t wait long to take advantage of the turnover. On second down, McFarlane hit receiver Lincoln Gibson in stride near midfield and the speedy senior turned on the afterburners and raced 74 yards to paydirt. Another good PAT kick put Ada ahead 28-7 at the 10:17 mark of the third period.
Elgin wouldn’t allow Ada to get too comfortable.
Landon Brewer recovered a muffed punt for the Owls and deep in Ada territory and that quickly turned into a 1-yard TD run by running back Jonathan Brown. The kick was no good, but the Owls had trimmed the Ada advantage to 28-13 at the 5:46 mark of the third period.
Nate Adamson then blocked an Ada punt minutes later to set up the Owls in good field position. But the AHS defense held and the Cougars returned the favor.
Bellard blocked the next Elgin punt attempt and Labove scooped it up around the 33-yard line and raced to paydirt for the score. The Cougars had seized the moment back and pushed their lead to 35-13 at the 2:13 mark of the wild third quarter.
Elgin again fired back with another big special teams’ play. Seneca Coleman returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards — Ada’s Ethan Presgrove made a diving tackle from behind to save a touchdown — to set up the Owls at the AHS 18.
Presgrove’s tackle only prevented an Elgin score for a few plays. Coleman found the end zone with a 5-yard run to get the Owls within 35-19 with less than a minute left in the third frame after a two-point pass fell incomplete.
Ada was forced to punt the ball back to the Owls early in the fourth quarter, but Cooper stopped that drive with an incredible, one-handed interception near midfield.
Elgin had another crack to get closer to the Cougars after Coleman intercepted a McFarlane offering at the 6:33 mark of the final period.
Cooper came to the rescue again with his third oskie of the night, this time setting Ada up at the Elgin 28. McFarlane then tossed a pass to tight end Christian Maloy over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown that finally gave Ada some much-needed breathing room. The Cougars led 42-19 with 5:14 left.
Never-say-quit Elgin drove all the way to the Ada 19 on its next drive before Labove sealed the outcome with an interception of his own — the Cougars’ fourth pick of the second half.
“We made too many mistakes for a playoff game, but we dug in and did enough to get the win,” Berus said. “In the playoffs your going to have adversity and it’s going to be the teams that handle it the best are going to be the ones that are successful and that happened for the Cougs tonight.”
McFarlane finished the game 17-of-26 for 207 yards and three touchdowns and added 53 yards rushing.
Cooper finished with seven catches for 44 yards to go along with his strong defensive effort.
Senior Teondre Harrison led Ada’s defensive charge with 13 tackles, including three for loss. Gallagher, Labove and Matt Maloy all had eight stops apiece. Christian Maloy finished with six tackles, two sacks, two hurries and two tackles for loss.