ENID, Okla. — Spencer Ball’s 39-yard field with 7:45 left in the game put Ponca City up 6-3 and the Wildcats hung on to snap a 17-game losing streak, defeating the Plainsmen Friday night at D. Bruce Selby Stadium.
In a game of missed opportunities, the Plainsmen still had a chance to tie the game, but Victor Vega’s 26-yard field goal attempt with 4:40 left sailed wide right and Ponca City was able to run out the clock, handing the Plainsmen a frustrating 6-3 setback.
The loss dropped Enid to 0-2. It was the season-opener for Ponca City.
After the Wildcats took the lead in the fourth quarter – their first lead of the night – the Plainsmen appeared to be driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown after a scrambling Maddux Mayberry connected with Daigen Gibbens for a pass over the middle that Gibbens turned into a 49-yard gain to the Ponca City 9-yard line.
But as they had done all night, the Plainsmen offense self-destructed, unable to gain ground and being flagged for an offside penalty.
The passing game struggled throughout with Mayberry going 7-16 with one interception and only 98 yards, half of those on the Gibbens 49-yard pass.
“We didn’t make the most of our opportunities,” said Enid head coach Rashaun Woods after the game. “We do things to hurt ourselves like jumping offside penalties. We made bad decisions with the ball. All of those things add up and over time if we can’t overcome them, we lose games.”
Coming out of halftime tied 3-3, the Plainsmen stopped Ponca City on its opening drive of the second half, forcing a turnover on downs at the Enid 27-yard line on a drive that started on the Wildcats’ own 18.
Johnny Villa, starting at running back in place of injured starter Trent Mitchell, after being bottled up most of the first half, put together a pair of strong runs, jooking and spinning as Enid moved down the field. The Plainsmen were aided by an unsportsmanlike penalty and appeared on their way to putting points on the board until Mayberry’s pass went off the fingers of Gibbens and in to the arms of Ponca’s Nathaniel Curfman at the Wildcat 30-yard line.
Again the Plainsmen’s defense stiffened and forced a turnover on downs by the Wildcats, keeping the score 3-3 in a scoreless third quarter.
On Enid’s next drive it was Nickey Chinoska’s turn out of the backfield with a big run up the middle for 14 yards to the Ponca City 34-yard line. However, a false start pushed the Plainsmen back five yards.
On fourth-and-10 from the Ponca City 39-yard line, Mayberry found Gibbens, but the pass came up a yard short and the Wildcats took over for what would be the eventual game-winning drive.
Pressed into a starting role, Villa rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries and Chinoska added 47 yards on nine carries.
“They (Villa and Chinoska) did a good job,” Woods said. “They did what we expect them to do and I was proud of them. Mitchell not playing definitely impacted us.”
As frequently as Enid’s offense was shut down, the Plainsmen defense stepped up repeatedly as well, stopping several Wildcat drives and giving the offense an opportunity.
The Wildcats were held to only 257 yards in total offense, but the Plainsmen only put up 223 yards.
“They (the defense) held on and gave us an opportunity to win, but it’s more than just defense,” Woods said.
Ponca City’s winning drive featured several timely rushes by both quarterback Justin Andrews and bulky tailback Ray Longoria. Andrews finished with 109 yards rushing and Longoria with 102 yards.
The Plainsmen did suffer a loss on defense when starting linebacker Dylan Gau went down in the first half with an apparent knee injury.
Enid opened the scoring by getting on the board first late in the first quarter on a drive that started from their own 47-yard line that likely should have started deep in Ponca City territory.
After the snap sailed over the head of Wildcats punter Ball, he recovered it at the Ponca City 1-yard line and was able to get the ball away and send it into Enid territory.
After being held in check earlier, Villa took a quick-hitter up the middle and then down the sideline for a 48-yard gain to the Ponca City 3-yard line. However, in what was a harbinger of things to come, the drive stalled and Enid was forced to settle for a 22-yard field by Victor Vega for a 3-0 lead.
One possession earlier, the Plainsmen squandered a great opportunity.
After a five-yard punt by the Wildcats set Enid up at the Ponca City 25-yard line, the Plainsmen offense sputtered and turned the ball over on downs.
Enid had another opportunity after Jonathan White picked off an Andrews pass at the Enid 40. However, after a 15-yard run by Chinoska to the Ponca City 40, the Plainsmen saw their drive stall and were forced to punt.
Both teams struggled to move the ball most of the half until Ponca City recovered a Blake Priest fumble at the 50-yard line following a completion to Priest from Mayberry.
But after driving for the apparent go-ahead touchdown, the Wildcats were called for a chop block and, like the Plainsmen, wound up settling for a 22-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3 late in the second quarter.
The score remained tied 3-3 going in to halftime.
Enid out-gained the Wildcats 123-93 in the first half, with 83 of Enid’s yards coming on the ground.
The Plainsmen have an open week to regroup before hitting the road to take on a tough Bishop McGuinness team on Sept. 20.
“We’ll get ready for McGuinness and we’ll keep going,” Woods said. “We know the situation and we know the long road that we have. Guys are executing at times but we have to be more consistent.”