Ruthenberg: Timberlake, Pioneer wins show strength of 8-man football in NW Oklahoma

Pioneer's Rafael Torres runs through the arm of Turpin's Logan Wills during the first round of the Class B playoffs Nov. 15 at Pioneer High School. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

Northwest Oklahoma 8-man football fans won’t have to travel far for some late-round playoff football on Friday.

While it was a given that Pond Creek-Hunter would find its way into the Class C semifinals — the Panthers shut out Covington-Douglas 48-0 to remain undefeated — it is likely not many outside of the Timberlake faithful gave the Tigers a shot at making the semifinals, but the Tigers showed why Northwest Oklahoma is 8-man football territory.

The Tigers traveled to Yukon take on undefeated, No. 2 Southwest Covenant and left with an impressive 40-26 victory, setting up Friday’s semifinal clash with Pond Creek-Hunter.

The Tigers have been flying a bit under the radar even here with Pond Creek-Hunter rolling again. However, behind quarterback Ethan Jenlink, who returned after missing the second half of last week’s 28-24 win over Mountain View-Gotebo, the Tigers (9-3) have been a bit of a juggernaut themselves this season.

Jenlink has now thrown for 21 touchdown passes this season after a five touchdown effort in the Tigers’ win over the Patriots and now will guide the Tigers into their semifinal showdown with fellow District C-1 member PC-Hunter.

The Panthers have pretty much blown the doors off most of their opposition — nine of their 12 wins have been by mercy rule — and were only really tested twice this season, most notably by Timberlake. The Tigers gave the Panthers all they could handle way back on Sept 27 in the district opener for both teams, which was won 46-38 by Pond Creek-Hunter.

The rematch has the appearance of being a potential classic.

Awaiting the winner will be either Waynoka (which gave PC-Hunter its other close call, falling 16-12) or defending champion — and Panthers nemesis — Tipton.

Timberlake and Pond Creek-Hunter kickoff Friday at 7 p.m. in Alva at Northwestern Oklahoma State. It’s too bad D. Bruce Selby Stadium was unavailable due to new turf being installed. Enid would have been the ideal spot for the game, which should generate plenty of local interest.

Waynoka (9-3) plays Tipton Friday in Weatherford at 7 p.m. at Southwestern Oklahoma State.

Mustangs stampede

Meanwhile, Pioneer also flexed some Northwest Oklahoma 8-man muscle, making the trip to Waurika and coming away with a convincing 38-14 victory to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class B playoffs.

The Mustangs (10-2) now will host perennial playoff contender Davenport (10-2), giving local fans yet another playoff option for next Friday night. The Bulldogs easily defeated Weleetka 46-6 in their playoff game on Friday.

Pioneer, as it has done much of this season, prevailed against Waurika with a strong ground game with 358 yards rushing, while not attempting a single pass.

The Mustangs will enter their quarterfinal game as winners of seven of their last eight games, with their only loss during that stretch a 42-30 setback at Cherokee in a game that decided the B-2 championship.

No.1 Cherokee (11-1) had little trouble in its pursuit of a Class B title as the Chiefs rolled past Snyder 52-6 and now travel to face Canadian with a spot in the Class B semifinals on the line.

The prowess and deep playoff runs of our 8-man teams reaffirms that, from top to bottom, Northwest Oklahoma is the heart of 8-man football.

Ruthenberg is sports editor for the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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