December 4, 2012

Lions headed to state title game

Aaron Colen, Sports Editor,
The Express-Star

OKLAHOMA CITY — "I've only got two things to say: Finish. 5-0."

Those were the words of Blanchard head coach Jeff Craig to his team after the Lions' 35-7 victory over Jones in the 3A state semifinals at Putnam City Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Blanchard improved its record to 12-1 by beating Jones for the second time this season, and advanced to the 3A state championship game against undefeated Kingfisher.

The Lions' defense kept Jones quarterback David Cornwell uncomfortable in the pocket all day, due to some new blitzes and personnel changes up front.

"On a couple of our nickel packages, we took Braden Stringer out of the secondary and put him in at linebacker, and put Zach Hill in at defensive end," Craig said. "Those guys are athletic guys that can run and Stringer is hard to block on the inside and Zach is hard to block on the edge."

The Lions came out of the gates quickly, and scored the first two touchdowns of the game in the first six minutes of the first quarter.

Stringer scored the first touchdown on a one-yard touchdown run with 9:22 left in the first quarter after Jones went three-and-out on the first drive of the game.

On the next drive, Jones went three-and-out again, and Blanchard went straight up the field again for its second touchdown with 6:15 left in the first quarter, on a Zach Hill direct-snap run, putting the Lions up 14-0.

Neither team scored in the second quarter.

The Blanchard defense scored the next points of the game, when Parker Randels got one of his two sacks on Cornwell for a safety.

"Those guys with Gage and Carson and Zach and Taylor and our linebackers, D.J. and Jalen, those guys were harassing him all day long," Craig said. "We mixed in a few other blitzes this week, because you've got to get to him. If you don't, he's just going to smoke you."

Stringer scored his second touchdown of the game with another one-yard touchdown run, set up by a 49-yard wide receiver pass from Tanner Foster to Hill.

Jalan Daniels recovered a Jones fumble at the Longhorns' five-yard line, and Hill scored his second rushing touchdown of the game with 3:25 left in the third quarter, putting Blanchard up 29-0.

Jones finally scored its only touchdown of the game, when Taylor Bilyeau returned a fumble by Stringer for a touchdown, and for the second-straight week, the Blanchard defense didn't allow any points.

"I can't say enough about how our kids prepared and our coaches got our kids ready to play and how our kids came out and executed the game plan, especially on defense," Craig said. "It was a tremendous defensive effort on our part to limit them the way we did because they're a very explosive football team."

Blanchard's final touchdown came on a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Lamle to Hill.

"It's just unbelievable how hard this team and all the coaches have worked, and the effort we've given all year," Lamle said.

Lamle went 10 for 20 passing for 85 yards and one touchdown, and also had 19 rushing yards. Hill was Blanchard's leading rusher and receiver with 10 carries for 75 yards and four catches for 71 yards, and had three total touchdowns. Stringer had 71 yards on 12 carries.

Lamle said it was satisfying to beat Jones again, proving that the October win wasn't just a one-time occurrence.

"We've focused so much on this week," Lamle said. "I think we just showed them all tonight, it was a wonderful game."

The Lions didn't take much time to celebrate the win, and Lamle said their focus would turn quickly to the state title game against Kingfisher.

"Probably just tonight, then after this we've got to focus and move on," Lamle said when asked how long he would celebrate the win. "We've got one more game."

Blanchard is scheduled to play Kingfisher at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.