On the final play of Chickasha's win against Duncan last Friday — or at least the last one that truly mattered — the cheer was one that usually follows a dramatic, final minute score.
But this time, it wasn't a quick-footed running back sprinting into the end zone or a quarterback and wide receiver connecting on a miracle hail mary pass that were the focus of the celebratory cry. It was Oron Bowman, the senior Fightin' Chicks defensive lineman, who sealed the deal by sacking Demons replacement quarterback Mason Hightower on fourth down. Rarely has a single sack been so significant.
"He gave a great effort and made a great play," head coach Tom Cobble said. "He's made several good plays of us throughout the year. That was probably the biggest one."
It was the only sack of the night, but that play ensured Chickasha moves on to the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006 by the skin of their teeth. The 20-14 win equalled the exact amount that Chickasha needed to win by in order to overcome Duncan on points differential and set up a meeting with title favorites Guthrie this week.
"I think with the coaches and the players, there was confidence," Cobble said. "It's been an incredible year, and there have been the highest of highs and lowest of lows. A lot of games have gone down to the wire and we've come up big in the end and scored."
If Bowman was the defensive standout, with nine tackles to go along with his big moment, then Josh Latham was the driving force on the other side of the ball. The running back powered Chickasha past Duncan with three touchdowns on 87 yards rushing in 12 attempts.
More than half of that came when the Fightin' Chicks found themselves down 14-7 in a frantic third quarter. Latham got past the Duncan line and a few linebackers before turning on the jets for a 47-yard touchdown run to tie the game up. It was a pivotal moment, given the ferocity and determination shown by the senior and what occurred on the peripheral of the play.
Just before diving into the right conner of the end zone, he had to shed off a challenge by the last man who turned out to be Duncan's mobile starting quarterback Connor Kelley. This is where it all begins to look like the result may have been written in the stars.
When Kelley fell from Latham's back, he landed hard and appeared to injure his shoulder. The running quarterback did return for the Demons, but he was soon on the receiving end of a bruising hit by senior linebacker TJ Filer, no doubt further aggravating the injury that eventually forced him off.
"Early on in the game, there were three turnovers back-to-back, and that eventually ended up going our way," Cobble said. "Whenever you can have things like that go your way, it certainly helps."
Hightower stepped in, but for all his effort he could not replicated the mobility shown by the starter. So Latham got his winning touchdown, Bowman got his sack, and the rest, they say, is history.