By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
For one half, and on a night when the Enid Plainsmen’s 1983 state championship team was recognized, the Plainsmen appeared to be on their way to an upset win, but could not hold a 13-3 halftime lead as the Owasso Rams scored 24 unanswered points to down Enid 35-20 in a District 6A-1 contest Friday night at Selby Stadium.
After a dominating first half, the Plainsmen gave up a big play early in the third quarter when Cole Neph found Brandon Price for an 85-yard touchdown pass on only Owasso’s third pass of the night to make it 13-10, and the game quickly turned. It also was the one thing Enid head coach Steve Chard said he warned the team about at halftime.
“I said the only way they are going to get back in this thing is to have something silly happen over the top, and unfortunately it did,” Chard said.
It also was Neph’s only pass of the night as his brother Gabe Neph was unable to start at quarterback after suffering a concussion last week in Owasso’s loss to Booker T. Washington. Sophomore Daulton Esmeyer started and played most of the game at quarterback for Owasso (4-4, 3-2) as the Rams kept the ball primarily on the ground.
Owasso added two more scores in the third quarter on a 28-yard Esmeyer run and then a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cole Neph from Esmeyer, followed by a 35-yard Landen Seiling field goal in the fourth quarter, the Plainsmen suddenly found themselves down 27-13 with eight minutes remaining after dominating the first half.
But the Plainsmen battled back to make it 27-20 when Raheem Mitchell scored on a 20-yard pass from Frederick Lawrence that capped an 80-yard, 10-play drive with 3:56 remaining.
“That was great execution on the wheel route to Raheem to get it to 27-20,” Chard said. “That’s a hard thing (for the quarterback) to stay patient and not overthrow that thing.”
Mitchell finished with only 26 yards rushing, but led the team with 106 yards receiving.
“They don’t give up much on the ground,” Chard said. “Fred threw some really good balls.”
Lawrence finished with 231 yards on 22-of-37 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions, one pick at the end of the game, but the other was a costly interception by Owasso’s Josh Kinzer at the Enid 27 after Owasso had gone up 17-10, which led to Neph’s touchdown reception that put the Rams ahead 24-13.
After Enid had trimmed the lead to 27-20, Owasso recovered an onside kick and then put the game out of reach when Esmeyer found tight end Cameron Oliver over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown on fourth down. The Rams went for two points to secure the maximum 15 district points and a 35-20 lead.
“That last touchdown was unfortunate because it was fourth and long and we were going to have a chance to tie that thing,” Chard said. “A 14-point swing was tough.”
There were also some chippy moments in the game in the second half that saw Enid’s Stephen Hocker ejected for throwing a punch. The ejection will mean an automatic two-game suspension.
“I saw nothing,” Chard said regarding the penalty call. “I’m disappointed for him that it happened. We have been really good on that kind of thing. We have only had two or three personal foul calls all season. But those things happen. It’s an intense game.”
The loss leaves Enid 2-3 in district play and 3-5 overall with two games remaining, at Stillwater next week and home against Sand Springs. The Plainsmen still likely control their own destiny, but will likely have to win out to reach the playoffs.
“All of our goals are still in place,” Chard said. “We’re not going to hang our head.
“It stings a little and it should, but our guys are resilient and we are going to get working in a minute on Stillwater.”
Enid got on the board first after recovering an Owasso fumble on the second play from scrimmage, setting up shop at the Rams’ 30-yard line. The drive appeared to have stalled until Lawrence connected with Raeshaan Finley for an 18-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 to the Owasso 12 yard line. After a fade pattern went off the hands of Alex Lofton on a subsequent third down, the Plainsmen settled for a 31-yard Mason Camp field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Rams tied the score at 3-3 on their next possession on a 31-yard field goal, but it would be the only points of the half for Owasso as the Plainsmen defense, behind the tenacious play of Hank Schulz, Jesse Cartwright and Caleb Harris shut down the ground-based Rams attack in the first half.
The Plainsmen went up 10-7 in the second quarter on Finley’s 7-yard run. Finley’s touchdown run was set up by 29-yard pass from Lawrence to Mitchell. One play earlier, it appeared Mitchell had scored, but his 25-yard run was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Enid’s defense held Owasso on its next possession.
A short punt of only 20 yards set Enid up at its own 31-yard line and the Plainsmen, on the strength of a 15-yard screen pass to Marshawn Mills to the Rams’ 40 and a pair of Mitchell receptions, added a 25-yard Camp field goal to take a 13-3 lead into the halftime locker room
“You always want touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone,” Chard said of the first half offense, but Chard still saw positives in the loss.
“I’m so proud of our guys, they played all four quarters and I think we have proved we’ve turned the page,” Chard said.
The Rams outgained Enid 388-305 yards with most of the damage on the ground, outgaining Enid 279-103. Owasso passed the ball only seven times, completing four passes, three of them for touchdowns.
Enid travels to Stillwater next week.