Muskogee Phoenix: Dec. 17, 2006
Just out of reach: Wolverines fall in spite of early lead
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — He had a glare in his eyes that had nothing to do with the sun setting behind Broken Arrow’s Memorial Stadium. He had pieces of rubber from the field’s aesthetic surface still sticking to his temples.
As he reflected immediately following his team’s 21-20 loss to Millwood in the Class 2A state championship, Vian quarterback Seth Sloan had one distinct emotion that followed him along with his shadow.
“Disbelief,” Sloan said. “We expect to win every game.”
Losing is not something Vian’s 18 seniors are used to tasting and after holding a 14-0 lead heading into the second quarter, this one probably tasted a little like cough syrup. Or motor oil.
Facing a fourth-and-nine situation at his team’s own 27-yard line with less than three minutes left in the game, Sloan was able to pull off the improbable by finding fellow senior Londell Taylor for a 41-yard pass. Sloan, who took over at quarterback for Tyren Samuels late in the third quarter, was able to get the ball off in spite of a thumb injury he suffered three games ago.
“What thumb? I had so much adrenaline it didn’t matter,” Sloan said.
After that, though, the miracles stopped for the gold and purple. The Wolverines (14-1) advanced the ball as far as Millwood’s 30-yard line before Tremain Swindall, a Texas Tech signee at wide receiver, picked off a pass intended for senior running back Vfastv Locust at the 10-yard line to seal the victory.
“We tried hard, we just came out short,” Locust said.
“We should have won it,” Vian senior lineman Nick Christie added. “We had our chances. Just couldn’t capitalize on a couple of them.”
The game ultimately came down to one of those chances—a missed extra point that went wide left off the foot of Vian freshman kicker Chris Peoples following a 65-yard interception return by Taylor with 5:45 to play in the third quarter.
“It’s part of the game,” Christie said. “Those types of things happen. You can’t go back and change it now.”
Added Millwood coach Tony Henry: “It comes down to that extra point. You play for 14 weeks and sometimes it comes down to that and you just hope you’re the one who’s a point ahead.”
Locust had a game-high 190 yards on 31 carries, including a 34-yard scamper on his first run. Locust’s production set up first quarter TD runs for junior running back Miguel Pratt (12 yards) and Samuels (16 yards). The Wolverines had a combined 12 plays for 129 rushing yards on the two drives.
On the verge of finding themselves down three scores and in a considerable hole, the Falcons (14-1), who won their fifth title, were able to force the Wolverines to turn the ball over on downs midway through the third quarter.
In spite of committing all five of his turnovers in the form of three fumbles and two interceptions, Millwood standout senior quarterback Gerald Jones got his team back in the game through his elusive strides.
Jones finished with 153 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He scored his first TD from 17 yards out with 2:39 to play until the half. After Chris Wrenn picked off a pass from Samuels at the Vian 8, Jones had a 2-yard score with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
Following the score, Sloan went under center to replace the sophomore.
“(Tyren) kind of got down on himself and we thought Seth could give us a boost,” Vian coach Brandon Tyler said.
In the end the biggest boost came from the quarterback wearing the stop-sign red shoes and socks.
“Gerald’s a guy we’re going to give the ball to, especially late in the game,” Henry said. “We had some role players jump in there and do some good things, but when it comes to it, you just have to let your playmakers make plays.”
Jones, one of the most highly sought high school recruits in Oklahoma this season who has signed with Tennessee, said he and his fellow seniors altered the team that the clock was their friend after finding themselves in the two-touchdown hole.
“It was frustrating especially with the crowd they had, but you’ve just got to stay focused,” Jones said. “The seniors said we have a lot of time left. That means there’s still a lot of time to win. And we told ourselves that.”
Unfortunately for Vian, that meant that there was also time to lose.
“We should have beat them. We gave it away. They’ve got seven D-I guys,” Sloan said. “We matched up with them man-for-man… It was a great game. Give credit to them. They played hard, but we gave this game away. We should have had it.”
Following the game, Jones had an open cut from where his helmet knocked into the top of his nose.
“It hurts,” he said. “It burns, but I’m all right. I’m happy so I ain’t worried about this.”
The Wolverines were experiencing a different kind of pain, their undefeated season ending in a one-point defeat.
Still the seniors tried to put a positive spin on the initial disappointment.
“One hell of a ride,” Christie said. “We left everything out on field. There’s nothing else we can say, really.”