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December 11, 2012

Best in class: Lions win 3A title

STILLWATER — It seemed to take forever. With less than a minute on the clock in the 3A state championship game, and the Blanchard High School football team with the ball and the lead, the Lions kept getting delayed from the final whistle.

As the Blanchard offense ran the ball out of its version of the Wildcat offense, direct-snapping to wide receiver Zach Hill in an attempt to run the clock out, the clock kept stopping.

Kingfisher players were getting into it with Blanchard players after the whistle, leading to some defensive personal foul penalties. On one play, a distracted Blanchard offense that was eager to celebrate was called for a delay of game. But, what are a few extra minutes to a school that’s waited for a title since 1979?

Blanchard finally got into the victory formation; taking a knee and completing its transformation from a 5-5 team that missed the playoffs in 2011 to a state champion in 2012 with a 28-21 win over previously-undefeated Kingfisher at Boone Pickens Stadium on Friday night.

“Feels good for everyone thinking that a 5-5 team last year, getting beat by Bridge Creek, couldn’t come back and make a run for it, and that’s what we did,” running back Stephan Davis said. “We set our minds to it and got it done.”

Lions’ running back Braden Stringer made some of the game’s biggest plays, none bigger than the recovery of a Grant Newton fumble with 1:38 left in the game, as the Yellowjackets were attempting to put together a game-tying drive.

Blanchard started the game with 14 straight points in the first quarter, and it looked as if the Lions might have been cruising to another lopsided win. But Kingfisher didn’t earn a 14-0 record by going down easily.

Kingfisher running back Landon Nault broke a 43-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. The Lions punted on their next drive, and the Yellowjackets drove 61 yards down the field for a Newton rushing touchdown to tie the game at 14.

Although they kept it close the entire game, Kingfisher never led. Blanchard took a 21-14 lead into halftime after Brock Lamle found Parker Randels in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass.

Lamle went 8 for 14 with 136 yards passing and one touchdown. 

Kingfisher tied the game at 21 in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown with 11:52 to play, which Stringer immediately answered with a 57-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Lions’ next drive to give Blanchard the lead for good.

“He was a huge key for our team. He’s a huge piece of the puzzle, and he really came through tonight,” Lamle said of Stringer.

Stringer ran for 111 yards on nine carries for two touchdowns, along with his one fumble recovery and 15 tackles.

The celebration by Blanchard players, coaches, cheerleaders and fans was frenzied and emotional, and lasted until the stadium officials began to clear the field, moving the players’ post-game party to the locker room. Players jumped into the stands to greet friends and family, and fans made their way down to the field for hugs and pictures.

“There’s nothing better. I’m so happy for those guys and love those guys to death,” head coach Jeff Craig said of his players. “I love what they’ve done for our program, the commitment they made and how they dedicated themselves to trying to get here, and they did it and we made it.

“I can’t say enough. Thanks to those guys for making coaching fun. This is why we do this,” Craig said.

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