Ada’s defense had its back against the wall over and over and over against old rival Ardmore in the season opener for both teams Friday night at Norris Field. And Ada’s defense made stop after stop after stop.
The Cougars shut out the Tigers 7-0 before a vocal Ada crowd in a game that saw a little bit of everything, a whole lot of players cramping and the home team using four different players at quarterback.
An Ada win in this series was a long time coming. It was the Cougars’ first victory over the Tigers since Ada came away with a 35-14 decision in 2012. Ada hadn’t shut out its rivals from the south since a 10-0 win in 1998. Ardmore failed to score in a regular-season game for the first time since October 2008 against Guthrie.
With just over four minutes left in the game, the Cougars were in dire need of a first down to try to milk more of the precious time left off the clock. But quarterback Zac Carroll, who started the game at QB and ended it there despite dealing with dehydration and cramping throughout the night, was picked off by Ardmore’s Alijah Pickens, who returned the ball to the Ada 36 with 3:55 left.
Ardmore was again knocking at the end zone door, and the Cougar defense needed one more stop.
A pass interference penalty gave the visitors first down at the 16, and backup Ardmore quarterback Kyle Arneecher scrambled for eight yards on the next play. On 2nd-and-2, Arneecher rolled to his left and was under great pressure by Ada defender Jaycob Gray, who nearly got a sack. Arneecher flung the ball toward paydirt, and Braden Maloy leaped high for an interception for Ada’s final clutch stop of the game.
The Cougars ran the clock down to six seconds before being forced to punt, but time expired during the return.
“The defense played lights out. They pitched a shutout with their backs against the wall,” Ada head coach Chris Berus said after the grueling victory. “That was a poor choice by me to throw that ball late in the game. It gets picked, and we’re back against the wall again. But then we get that pick in the end zone by Braden. It was pretty phenomenal.”
The Cougars overcame a couple of turnovers, nearly 100 yards worth of penalties and cramping that saw Carroll, Manny LaValley, Jake Shannon and Bo Odom all play quarterback at some point. And still, Ada came away with a victory over a Tiger team that advanced to the Class 5A state championship game in 2018.
“There was a ton of mistakes that obviously have to get corrected if we’re going to get where we’re going to go,” Berus said. “As awesome as this win is, we have to find, reflect and find out where we need to grow and start getting ready for Noble.”
The Bears come to town Friday night for Ada’s Week 2 Homecoming contest at Norris Field.
Berus had to tip his hat to his quarterback crew. While LaValley and Carroll spent the entire preseason taking snaps with the first-team offense, Shannon and Odom weren’t expected to see any time under the Friday night lights.
Shannon, the scout team quarterback, and Odom, who likely hasn’t taken a snap at quarterback at all during the preseason, picked up crucial first downs during their signal-caller stints.
“I asked them if they could take a couple of snaps, and they said, ‘Yes, sir,’ and didn’t flinch,” Berus said.
Of course, it was only fitting that the Ada defense set up the only touchdown of the game. With the Tigers on the move near midfield, starting quarterback Creed Cox mishandled a snap and fumbled the ball. Senior defensive lineman Austin Eastwood recovered the pigskin and set up the Ada offense at the Ardmore 38.
LaValley connected with Will Bailey for a 22-yard gain to get Ada into the red zone, and running back Tyler Peters scored on a nice 15-yard touchdown scamper. Phillip Jones’ PAT kick put Ada ahead 7-0 at the 5:26 mark of the opening period. At that point, who knew that lead would stand up?
Ardmore’s next three drives ended on Ada’s side of the field. Ada held on fourth down all three times — once forcing an incomplete pass on a fake punt attempt by the Tigers.
Odom stopped a third-quarter Ardmore drive with an interception at the 5-yard line and nearly had another pick later in the period.
Ardmore got to the Ada 16 and called time out on fourth down with 36 seconds left. The Tigers lined up in the rare “Swinging Gate” formation and snapped the ball to tailback Donald May. But the Cougars weren’t fooled, and Eastwood tackled the runner for an eight-yard loss to thwart that Tiger scoring attempt.
A muffed punt attempt early in the fourth quarter gave Ardmore hope and the ball at the Ada 36. But that drive stalled out on fourth down from the 19, when Peters sacked Arneecher for a 10-yard loss.
The Cougars limited Ardmore to 166 total yards. The Tigers finished just 7-of-26 through the air for 52 yards. Cox led the Ardmore ground game with 17 carries for 52 yards.
Ada finished with 196 yards of total offense. Peters led the rushing attack with 72 yards on 11 totes, while Shannon had three catches for 70 yards.
By the Numbers
Ada 7, Ardmore 0
ARDMORE 0 0 0 0 — 0
COUGARS 7 0 0 0 — 7
ADA: Tyler Peters 15 run (Philip Jones kick)
10 First Downs 9
33-114 Rushes-Yards 33-100
52 Passing Yards 96
26-7-2 Att-Comp-Int. 12-5-1
166 Total Yards 196
2-1 Fumbles-Lost 2-1
5-26 Penalties-Yards 9-91
RUSHING: Ardmore, Creed Cox 17-52, Donald May 5-39, Ricky Smith 5-17, Kyle Arneecher 4-5, Jaamarre Williams 2-1; Ada, Tyler Peters 11-72, Zac Carroll 3-12, Bo Odom 3-6, Maximus Rhynes 7-0, Jake Shannon 5-3, Brade Maloy 2-1, Will Bailey 2-6.
PASSING: Kyle Arneecher 6-14-40-0, Creed Cox 3-10-12-1; Ada, Zac Carroll 3-7-70-1, Manny LaValley 2-5-26-0.
RECEIVING: Ardmore, Raven Henderson 3-20, Jaamarre Williams 1-24, Dakaree Scott 1-5, Mikey Jones 1-3, Ricky Smith 1-0; Ada, Jake Shannon 3-70, Will Bailey 1-22, Maximus Rhynes 1-4.