2-0 in district play... 10/9 7:00 PM @ Bartlesville
The Roughers piled up 481 yards Friday in a 42-13 homecoming romp over Ponca City on Creek Nation Field at Indian Bowl, one week after putting up 493 against Sapulpa.
OK, it was homecoming, so forgive the 12-yard difference.
Molijah Gilbert had another fine rushing performance after becoming the first Rougher since 2006 to break 200 yards in a game. He was just shy of that Friday with 187 yards on 29 carries, including three second-half touchdowns of 9, 13 and 3 yards.
Blame that difference on homecoming too if you wish.
Muskogee coach Rafe Watkins did — indirectly — unhappy with what he saw as a somewhat sluggish start, which included Gilbert's 74 yards on 15 carries, that had it 14-7 until the late moments of the first half.
And he laid it on his offensive line. "We were moving the ball but we weren't mashing people," he said, also noting several holding penalties that slowed drives. "We challenged the OL a great deal at the half. We've been bragging on how good a unit they had become and it wasn't happening, not like we want.
"But I was really proud of how they responded. They played harder, Mo ran hard, our receivers blocked well. And our defense played well after giving up another first-drive touchdown. I think that's five times."
Actually four — Fayetteville was held inside the 10 on its first possession. But so much for the night's near misses as Muskogee moved to 2-0 in district, 2-3 overall.
"The best news is we're healthy and homecoming is over," Watkins then noted.
Quarterback Quintahj Cherry was 14-of-23 for 217 yards and three TDs, one each to Jeremiah Medrano, Kamren Curl and Jamari Davis. Cherry had 158 of that at the half.
The Roughers struck on their opening march, marching 57 yards. Mikey Rodriguez took a pitch and threw a 30-yard completion on the first play from scrimmage to get that drive going. Jeremiah Medrano caught a pass on the run in the corner of the end zone on a face for 27 yards.
The Wildcats (1-3, 0-2) answered with a 66-yard touchdown drive, ending it with one of two touchdown tosses by Conner Larson to Trent Fry, covering 9 yards. The other would come with :08 on the game clock, covering 23 yards.
Cherry found Curl for 18 yards on a seven-play, 63-yard drive, then finished an eight-play, 86-yarder by hitting Jamari Davis in stride near the Ponca City 30. He outraced the coverage the rest of the distance, covering 59 yards and making it 21-7.
Gilbert's first TD in the second half came on a fourth-and-5 call at the 9. With a full-house or "jumbo" set in the backfield, he took the direct snap and went in. It atoned for his fumble on the same formation in the second quarter after Muskogee got the ball at the Wildcat 47 following a short punt.
Gilbert's frustration about it on an otherwise excellent night showed afterward.
"Man, I just don't need to do that," he said.
Still, the offense is feeding off its success confidence-wise.
"When we put our foot on the pedal, we can score on any defense," said Curl, who finished with seven catches for a team-high 116 yards.
The defense had its own heroics. Cornerback Travon Hughes had two interceptions in the second half, three overall — with an asterisk. A scrambling Larson threw just as he was ruled out of bounds on the final play of the first half, finding Hughes at the other end near the MHS 20. One of Hughes' second-half steals turned into a touchdown return that was negated on an illegal block.
"I've been praying to make a play. I was waiting for them, waiting for them, praying just let them come to me," Hughes said.
Chances are, the opportunities won't go away. Muskogee gets the ever-improving Bartlesville Bruins, who injected themselves into the district title race in a major way Friday by knocking off defending 6AII champion Bixby 50-33, at Bartlesville next Friday.
"We've just got to keep grinding in practice," Hughes said. "That's where it starts."
And that, too, follows homecoming week.
By Mike Kays Phoenix Sports Editor