Ada didn’t make a lot of mistakes in Friday night’s showdown with Deer Creek for the No. 3 spot in the District 5A-1 standings. But every one the Cougars made was a killer.
The last miscue of the night — an interception of a Wyatt Robson pass by Deer Creek defensive back Brennan Miyake with 1:15 to play — ended what would have been a miracle Ada comeback and finally sealed a wild 31-28 victory for the host Antlers at Heflin Field.
With the win, Deer Creek (7-3, 5-2) wrapped up the third spot in 5A-1 and will travel to Ardmore Friday; Ada, meanwhile, fell to 5-5 and 4-3 and, as the league’s No. 4 team, will make the long trip to Lawton to face District 5A-2 champ Lawton MacArthur for a first-round playoff game.
“We had our chances,” Ada coach Matt Weber said after seeing his club fall just short despite outgaining the Antlers, 417-355. “They just played better than we did.”
Weber’s offense was a juggernaut all night long, grinding out 288 yards on 46 rushing plays — including 100 yards-plus from tailbacks Mason Girdley and Nathan Blakely — and getting another 129 yards from Robson through the air. The Cougars had one touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty and another drive stopped by a dropped pass in the first half, however, and the Ada defense simply never found an answer for Deer Creek jack-of-all-trades Alex Christensen.
A 6-3, 240-pound senior, Christensen alternated between quarterback and tailback and accounted for all but 65 of the Antlers’ yards in the game. He rushed for 247 yards on 36 bruising carries and completed 3-of-9 passes for 43 more, with two of his three completions coming on a clutch 81-yard drive at the end of the first half that sent Deer Creek to the locker room with a 17-6 lead.
“When they have a kid like that and you don’t tackle him, it makes for a long night,” Weber said after seeing Christensen run for 15 of his team’s 20 first downs and throw for three more. “We knew we had to stop him, and we didn’t.”
After Christensen scored from nine yards out on a quarterback draw with 10.2 seconds left in the half to give the Antlers their first 11-point lead of the night, Ada dominated the third period and carried a 20-17 lead to the fourth. But Christensen’s 13-yard run on the second play of the final period and his nine-yard run with just 3:49 to play again gave Deer Creek an 11-point bulge at 31-20.
Skylar Alexander — whose 46-yard return of the second-half kickoff had ignited Ada’s third-quarter comeback — returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Deer Creek 49, then Robson accounted for all of the yardage on a 10-play drive to the game’s final score. The sophomore signal-caller threw for 37 yards and ran for the final 12, and he scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard keeper off left guard to pull the Cougars to within a field goal with 1:27 to play.
Deer Creek was penalized 15 yards for a face mask on Robson’s touchdown run, and Ada kicker Sam McCann dribbled a perfect on-sides kick down the middle that was recovered for the Cougars by DeAngelo Dunn just outside the Antlers’ 35-yard line.
The comeback bid died one play later, though, when Robson’s pass to the right sideline was tipped and intercepted by Miyake at the 30. He returned the ball to the Ada 44, and after another personal foul penalty pushed it back to the Deer Creek 38, Christensen sandwiched runs of three and four yards around a five-yarder by Luke Bradshaw to convert the only first down the Antlers needed to run out the clock.
“As soon as we threw it, I was wishing I had back and had called a draw play,” Weber said of the pass that resulted in the only turnover by either team. “We’ve got a tough road now. We’ll jut have to watch film and see if we can get some of this stuff corrected.”
Deer Creek grabbed an early 7-0 lead on a 20-yard run by Miyake with 8:13 left in the first quarter to cap an impressive 63-yard, eight-play opening drive on which Christensen also gained 26 yards on four carries.
The Cougars answered on their first possession, chewing up more than five minutes on a 12-play, 85-yard march of their own. Girdley, who finished with 133 yards on 17 carries, had runs of 25, 8 and 14 yards, Chase Bowker gained 16 yards on three carries, and Blakely had 15 yards on two tries on the drive, which ended with Robson’s quarterback sneak at the 2:58 mark.
McCann’s extra point sailed wide right, however, and Deer Creek carried a 7-6 lead to the second quarter.
The Cougars stopped a threat at the Ada 46 and forced one of two Deer Creek punts in the game late in the first quarter, then they appeared to have taken the lead when Robson found tight end Mark Kirkpatrick all alone down the middle on a 51-yard touchdown pass.
But a holding penalty nullified the score and killed the drive, and a 17-yard punt gave Deer Creek great field position at the Ada 43. Christensen gained 17 yards on the next play, but Joel Blumenthal — who alternated with Christensen at quarterback — was sacked by Cougar defensive end Jake Todd on third-and-7 from the 23.
Shawn McLaws turned the drive into points, though, drilling a line-drive 44-yard field goal to make it 10-6 with 7:07 left in the half.
Ada came back with another promising drive, marching from the Cougar 20 to the DC 38. But tight end Randy Armstrong dropped a pass at the 15 on second-and-9, and after Robson’s third-down attempt also fell incomplete, Ada punted again and the Antlers took over at their 19 with 3:13 left before intermission.
Christensen handled the ball on all 14 plays on the ensuing drive, rushing for 27 yards on the first six snaps, then hitting Kyle Kanady for 16 yards on a third-and-7 from the DC 46. Two plays later, Christensen ran for another 16 yards, and on second-and-10 from the 22, he rolled out and found McLaws for 13 more to the Ada 9.
After a spike on first down stopped the clock, Christensen threw incomplete into the end zone on second down, but he burst up the middle on a keeper on third-and-goal from the 9 with just 10.2 seconds left in the half. McLaws’ PAT sent the Antlers to the locker room with a 17-6 lead.
The Cougars then put together a pair of impressive drives on their first two possessions in the third quarter to take their only lead of the night.
Alexander’s long return of the second-half kickoff gave Ada a first down at the Deer Creek 49, and Blakely did almost all of the work on the ensuing drive — which actually covered 64 yards because of a dead-ball personal foul penalty that pushed the ball back to the Antlers’ 35 after a 24-yard Blakely run to the 20.
Blakely, who finished with 107 yards on 13 carries, gained 11 and 9 yards on the two plays after the penalty, Chase Bowker added nine more on second-and-1 to make it first-and-goal at the 6, then Blakely gained four yards on the next play. Ada was called for a false start to push the ball back to the 7, but Blakely swept left on the next play for the touchdown to pull Ada to within 17-12 (Robson’s run on the conversion fell just short) with 8:49 left in the period.
The Antlers then drove from their 34 to the Ada 37 in five plays before Cody Johnson’s stop of Deer Creek tailback Michael Coleman for a two-yard loss led to a punt two plays later. McLaws’ perfectly-placed boot was downed by Harley Dodd inside the Ada 1 and launched the Cougars on a scoring drive to equal the longest in school history.
Girdley gained two yards on first down, then Robson took a short drop and fired a pass down the left sideline to senior wideout Christian Johnson, who outjumped a defender at the 30 and raced to the Deer Creek 41 before he was pushed out of bounds at the end of a 56-yard play.
Girdley gained 16 yards on the next snap, and one play later Blakely angled off left tackle and picked his way through the DC defense behind some nice blocking on a 25-yard touchdown run. Robson hit Bowker for the two-point conversion, and the Cougars had a 20-17 lead with 5:21 left in the period.
Christensen again took matters into his own hands — and legs — on the ensuing drive, though, accounting for 60 of the 73 yards on a 10-play march that gave the Antlers the lead for good. A key pass interference penalty against the Cougars on a third-and-10 from the Ada 40 helped the drive along, then a holding penalty and a two-yard loss by Miyake one play later made it third-and-22 from the 37. But that was no problem for Christensen, who gained 24 yards to give his team a first down at the 13.
Christensen took the next snap out of the shotgun, broke an ankle tackle in the backfield and skirted the right side for a 13-yard touchdown run to put Deer Creek back in front, 24-20, with 11:29 to play.
Then, after the Cougars moved from their 25 to the DC 37 with the help of a personal foul penalty against the Antlers but came up empty when Robson’s fourth-down pass was incomplete, Christensen carried on all but one play and gained all but eight yards on a 63-yard drive to an insurance score.
Working from the tailback spot, Christensen gained 31 yards on the first play of the drive, then he gained 16 yards on the next four snaps to set up a second-and-7 at the Ada 16. After Bradshaw’s eight-yard run gave Deer Creek a first down at the 8, Christensen was stopped for a one-yard loss by Dalton Thompson, but one snap later he took a toss from Blumenthal and swept right end for his third touchdown of the game and a 31-20 lead at the 3:49 mark.