By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Nick Smith had more points scored in the 3A title game than he had words for it afterward.
“I don’t know ... I’ve never...” Smith trailed off, an incredulous grin expressing plenty more than his first five words.
It didn't matter — the Yellowjackets finally, after five chances in the championship game in eight seasons, had a title.
The sophomore scored each and every Kingfisher point — PATs and all — rushing for 231 yards and four scores on only 10 carries, and booting a 35-yard field goal in the Yellowjackets’ 30-23 win against Blanchard that wiped away four near-misses in the previous seven years for Kingfisher, the most recent a defeat to the same Blanchard team on the same Boone Pickens Stadium turf not much more than a year previous.
Thursday night’s bus ride home likely was a better one.
“Those silver balls finally have some company in the trophy case,” said Kingfisher head coach Jeff Myers. “Except this time, it’s a gold one.”
Senior running back Landon Nault, Kingfisher’s longtime workhorse who entered his final high school game with 2,266 yards rushing on the season, was a decoy for much of Thursday’s game, finishing with 21 carries for 41 yards, including a crucial 6-yard run with less than 2 minutes left to essentially enable the Yellowjackets to burn off the rest of the clock.
For Nault, in his third title game in four seasons, watching Smith lead his team was well worth getting his first championship.
“Nick’s a great player,” Nault said. “He’s gonna be a great player for the next few years for the Jackets. We couldn’t have done it without him. He’s a young kid, but he stepped-up big when plays needed to be made … I’m so happy for him.”
Smith’s first touch was a shot across Blanchard’s bow for what followed.
The 5-foot-7, 160-pound back took an option handoff from quarterback Docker Haub, then took a few steps to his left, made one cut upfield and raced untouched for a 75-yard score. Smith missed the ensuing extra point — one of very few mistakes for the sophomore — but was back on track two snaps later, hitting Kegan Lawson for three yards in the backfield on the Lions’ next drive. Smith hit a 35-yard field goal on Kingfisher’s resulting chance to put the Yellowjackets up 9-0 after the first.
Blanchard (13-1) rallied in the second, exploiting several Kingfisher mistakes to outscore the Yellowjackets 16-0 in the frame.
The run started with two bad snaps in four plays, the first whistling over Nault’s head in Kingfisher’s wildcat-esque formation to push the Yellowjackets back to their own 4, and the second sneaking through Nault’s hands, forcing him to boot it through the endzone, taking a safety rather than risking a defensive score.
Down 9-2 after the mishap, Blanchard evened the score at 9-9 after Kingfisher’s safety punt, scoring on a 4-yard run by Braden Stringer.
A Smith fumble on Kingfisher’s next snap from scrimmage was recovered by Lawson. The Lions scored again five plays later, when quarterback Blake Owen rolled to his right, spun away from a Jace Sternberger tackle and hit Collin Andrews for a 7-yard touchdown, giving Blanchard a 16-9 halftime lead.
“There’s always panic in a game when you’re down,” said Smith, then correcting himself: “Well, not necessarily panic, but you have to fight to come back. We knew that all the points that they’d scored, it was basically handed to them, so we just had to work our hardest to come back.”
“Our kids got a little upset because we hadn’t been in that situation all year,” Myers said. “The way our kids responded, and how they responded coming out in the second half, all we did was just challenge them at halftime … We just settled them down, and told them, ‘Hey, it’s a whole new ballgame, let’s just take care of business.’”
The talk worked.
Kingfisher forced a Blanchard three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, and after a pass interference penalty put the Yellowjackets at the Blanchard 36, Smith scored on the next play, hitting the extra point to even the game at 16-16.
After dueling three-and-outs, Tristan Ransom and Sternberger each recorded sacks before Blanchard drove to Kingfisher’s 29, where Smith and Ransom stopped Stringer on fourth-and-1.
Two plays later, Smith scored his third touchdown, racing 83 yards through the middle of Blanchard’s line to give the Yellowjackets a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
After another Sternberger sack forced another Blanchard three-and-out, Kingfisher took over at Blanchard’s 32 and scored on a 25-yard run two plays later, Smith’s fourth.
“It’s awesome (watching Smith)” Myers said. “It’s even more awesome because I know I’m gonna have him for two more years.”
Kingfisher finished its season at 15-0, and will graduate 11 seniors, including Nault, who Smith figures to replace full-time in 2014.
“Landon’s shoes, they’re gonna be hard to fill,” said Smith. “He works hard. I guess I’m gonna have to work hard, too.”
Friday was a good start.
KINGFISHER 30, BLANCHARD 23
Kingfisher 9 0 7 14 - 23
Blanchard 0 16 0 7 - 30
7:45 KHS — Nick Smith 75 run (kick failed)
2:37 KHS — Smith 35 Field Goal
8:20 BHS —Safety
4:24 BHS — Braden Stringer 4 run (Blake Barker kick)
1:48 BHS — Collin Andrews 7 pass from Blake Owen (Barker kick)
9:33 KHS — Smith 36 run (Smith kick)
10:57 KHS — Smith 83 run (Smith kick)
8:12 KHS — Smith 25 run (Smith kick)
4:41 BHS — Stringer 12 pass from Owen (Baker kick)
First Downs 5 11
Rush 294 162
Pass 19 101
Total 313 263
C-A-I 2-3-0 5-10-0
Fum-Lost 6-1 1-0
Pen-Yards 7-70 8-83
Punt-Avg 3-40.5 6-26.7