STILLWATER — There was a sudden and uncomfortable stop by the Alex train in Stillwater Friday night when they dropped a big 58-26 decision to Pond Creek-Hunter in the Class B semifinals.
The Panthers were efficient in their march into the state final next week, scoring on all but five of their possessions as the Alex defense was overwhelmed, especially in the first half. The Longhorns were undefeated up until this point.
P.C.-Hunter didn’t take long to score. An opening 56-yard drive was capped by a one-yard quarterback sneak by senior Josh Irvin. Irvin and running back Harley Comeau showed early signs of being the trouble makers for Alex, and they delivered again on the second drive.
Alex’s potent postseason offense was stopped on the opening drive and forced to punt on a three-and-out. It pinned P.C.-Hunter to their own 33, but Comeau quickly rectified that. His pass and catch with Irvin and a long run down the right side took the Panthers to the 17. Full back Trenton Grimes made sure it was two-for-two in trips to the red zone as P.C.-Hunter took a quick 16-0 lead.
With just 16 total players on the field, everything seemed so open. But, it all boiled down to one single pressure point, and P.C.-Hunter was not budging. When Alex did try to escape through the air, the Panthers were there, too. Zach Rayner intercepted Dalton Alcorn’s pass to end the first quarter, and the opening frame belonged completely to the Panthers.
They stopped them once to start the second quarter, but a second opportunity did not go wanting. After driving to the 8 yard line, Irvin was faced with an open field as he dropped back to pass. The senior stepped up and suddenly saw Rayner at the back of the end zone. Another two points converted, and P.C.-Hunter were in charge up 24-0 with 5:43 left in the first half.
It went from bad to worse when a squib kick was fumbled and recovered by the Panthers. One play and a 41 yard pass to Rayner later, and suddenly the game seemed well beyond reach.
Senior Jose Ochoa wasn’t having it. He sparked the Longhorn offense with a 24-yard run down to the Panther 28 with just under five minutes of the first half left. Alex went to Ochoa again for the touchdown, this time a 14-yard sprint to the right of the end zone. He converted the two-point conversion, too, making the score 32-8 with about four minutes left in the second quarter.
It was enough time for one more touchdown. Comeau got in on the action for P.C.-Hunter, capping a six play drive with a 37 yard sprint down the left side into the end zone. Alex couldn’t convert on a last-gasp drive and went into halftime down by 30 points.
The Longhorns came out the better of the two teams in the second half. Alcorn connected downfield on a quick screen pass that ended up going the whole 53 yards for a touchdown. As if they were ever out of it, the touchdown brought the traveling Longhorn crowd back into the game. An intentional grounding call on third down gave the Alex defense a big stop.
But they were unable to do anything with it, and when an attempt to go for it on fourth down on their own 25 went wrong, P.C.-Hunter made them pay. Irvin ran the 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play to restore the 30 point lead. The momentum swing was brief for Alex, and it went completely against them afterwards. Alcorn’s pass was picked for six by Devan McKee to heap more misery on the Longhorns.
Alex kept pressing, and Ochoa got a passing touchdown when he found Jacob Otey in the end zone. Otey did well to shed the man guarding him and leapt up for a finger-tip grab to keep the Longhorns clinging onto hope. But there was no stopping the Panthers at this point, and they started the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by Grimes. Ryland Ketchum added the late touchdown for Alex.