It’s funny how big moments can thrust even the must unsuspecting person into the spotlight.
For the 3A State Final, that person was sophomore Nick Smith, who scored all of Kingfisher’s points as the running back and kicker in their 30-23 win over Blanchard on Thursday in Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Coming into the game, he wasn’t on many radars. There was Landon Nault, the senior running back for Kingfisher, and Braden Stringer, Blanchard’s main man who had a touchdown run and catch and another 100+ yards game to keep the Lions in the fight.
But the night belonged to Smith and the Yellowjackets, who scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to win. Smith had 223 yards on just seven carries, and four of those were into the end zone.
“We knew with all the points that they scored, we were just handing it to them,” Smith said. “So we had to fight to come back. I’ve never had that [kind of game.] I couldn’t have done it without my linemen.”
The feeling on the Lions sidelines was one that the Yellowjackets knew far too well last year. It was Blanchard who took this same contest in 2012, and this year the shoe is on the other foot.
“They changed a few things in their offense, just a little adjustment,” Blanchard head coach Jeff Craig said. “Using Landon [Nault] and Nick [Smith] in that little set, it took us a minute to adjust to it. I’m proud of our kids for not laying down and battling back.”
After both opened with three-and-outs, it appeared this would be similar to Blanchard’s semifinal against Plainview as a defensive, grinding battle. Smith changed all of that on the Yellowjackets’ first play of their second drive by running 75-yards to the house and giving his team the lead. Smith made the cut at just the right moment down the left, and there was no one even close to stopping him.
The sudden shift in momentum would naturally bring a team to go to their main offensive threat, in this case Stringer for Blanchard. But for two drives in a row – both three-and-outs – the talented running back did not touch the ball. Kingfisher, in the meantime, extended its lead as Smith made a 35-yard field goal.
When Stringer finally showed, it must have breathed life into the Lions team. After a punt backed the Yellowjackets up on their own 10, a second botched snap on that series forced quarterback Docker Haub to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Blanchard were on the board, but at 9-2 needed a touchdown.
Cometh the hour, Stringer was the man. After breaking away for a 41 yard sprint to the Kingfisher 10, he finished the drive off with a 4 yard rumble to tie the game up. A fumble by Smith led to Blanchard’s first lead of the game with just under two minutes to go in the half. Blake Owen rolled out to the right and rifled the ball into Collin Andrew’s chest for the go ahead score. After Kingfisher domination, Blanchard answered in a big way and took the 16-9 lead into halftime.
If the Lions had the momentum coming out of the locker room, they didn’t have it for long. A pass interference call when Kingfisher went long on their first play sent them to the Lions’ 36. Once again, Smith took it from there. He broke through the middle and made enough guys miss to go all the way into the end zone. In the blink of an eye, the game was tied at 16-16.
With the Blanchard offense floundering, Smith took charge once again. After a punt took them inside their own read zone, Kingfisher answered by giving the ball to their stupendous sophomore who sprinted 83 yards to give them the lead. Momentum was completely with the Yellowjackets.
More evidence of that came on the next drive. Blanchard punted again, but it only made it to their own 30. After 25 yards, Smith had his team up two touchdowns, 30-23.
The Lions did manage a consolation. Owen found Stringer for his second touchdown pass of the night on a wheel rout for 10 yards. The pass was picture perfect as the running back cradled the ball like a precious gem all the way to the ground.
“We probably should’ve dipped into that (big plays) a little bit more,” Craig said. “If we had been a little more efficient, I felt like we had the opportunities but just didn’t pull them off.”
Kingfisher managed to run out the clock with a few crucial first downs.