Cashion Defensive Coordinator Tony Wood knew his players would need a few possessions to settle in against the potent rushing attack of the #4 Pawnee Black Bears. As it turned out, they would only need two.
On Pawnee’s first two possessions of the game, the Black Bears put together two methodical drives, both ending with touchdowns and two-point conversions. The Black Bears held a 16-14 lead with 11:07 to go in the second quarter. It would be the last time the Black Bears scored, as the #1 Wildcats dominated the second half to punch their ticket to the state championship with a 34-16 win.
“We knew coming in that the first couple of series were going to be tough until we could figure some things out,” Wood said. “We knew it was going to be tough because there is no way to emulate what they do in practice. We knew it could take a little bit to figure it out, but we were able to do that. It was a great night for those guys.”
The Wildcats jumped out to an 8-0 lead on Cashion’s opening possession of the game, as TJ Roberts scored the first of his four touchdowns of the night. Pawnee responded by scoring on a nine-yard run and a two-point conversion to tie the game up with five minutes to play in the quarter.
Quarterback Ben Harman would put the Wildcats back in front with a 15-yard run to give Cashion a 14-8 lead with :55 to play in the opening quarter.
The Black Bears opened the second quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion to take their final lead of the game 16-14 with 11:07 to go in the half.
After both teams punted for the first time in the game, the Wildcats took over with two minutes to go in the half. Roberts would end the drive with his second touchdown of the game, scoring on a nine-yard run to put Cashion up 20-16 at halftime.
After forcing a three-and-out to start the third quarter, the Wildcats would march 77 yards, ending the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass by Harman to Roberts to put the Wildcats up 26-16 with 2:46 left in the quarter.
With a two-score lead, the Wildcats were able to be more aggressive on defense, allowing Jacob Farrow to come away with an interception with 9:56 remaining in the game. The extra possession would end in a seven-yard touchdown run by Roberts and a two-point conversion to put the Wildcats up 34-16.
The Black Bears got one final possession but ended with a turnover on downs, allowing Cashion to run the clock out.
After Pawnee rattled off 193 yards on 29 carries in the first half, the Black Bears were held to 38 yards on 19 carries in the second half. After the game, Coach Wood didn’t hesitate when asked where this defensive performance ranked for him this season.
“This has to be number one,” Wood said. “There is no doubt. If it’s a game that puts you into the finals and to shut out an offense like that in the second half, I couldn’t be any more proud of those guys. I hope they have one more left in the tank.”
Cashion Head Coach Lynn Shackelford was proud of the way his defense rose to the occasion and says his staff made some great adjustments that allowed them to stop Pawnee’s rushing attack.
“After their second possession, we kind of calmed down a little and stayed true to our reads,” Shackelford said. “Coach Wood did a good job of making a few adjustments that kind of helped our guys out. We did a good job of winning on first down and putting them into some situations where their whole playbook wasn’t available to them. Credit to our kids, that’s a really good football team over there and to come out and shut them down in the second half, I was really pleased.”
The Wildcats were led by Justice Broadbent on defense, who finished with a team-high of 16 tackles. Jacob Farrow and Bryce Miller finished with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively.
On offense, Roberts did it all, finishing with 137 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while catching an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The Wildcats will now turn its attention towards #2 Ringling High School, as they battle it out for the state title. This is the first state appearance for the Wildcats since 2015.
“We say at the beginning of every year that every team is different,” Shackelford said. “It’s always a new journey and the journey is what’s awesome about it. We’ll give it our best shot at 1 o’clock on Saturday.”
Check the Guthrie News Leader this Saturday for a special State Preview.