ANTLERS — The playoff possibilities for district 2A-4 are as crazy as they’ve been in years, but the Kingston Redskins controlled what they could control with a 44-10 win Friday at Antlers.
At kickoff, the playoff picture was muddled at best, and it hasn’t gotten a whole lot clearer after Friday’s games. However, Kingston head coach John Caraway said his Redskins did what they needed to do in Antlers.
“We came out ready to play and we executed the way we wanted to,” Caraway said. “We suited up all of our freshmen, so we had 40-plus kids in uniform — I think it was 45 —and we got all of them in and they played well. Our offense came out as sharp as they’ve been all year, and our defense played well and got us a lot of minus plays, so it was a good performance all around.”
Caraway said the possibility of notching the second shutout of the year motivated his players.
“We talked about it at halftime when it was 30 to nothing,” Caraway said. “We said, ‘Everyone’s going to play tonight, so don’t be the unit that gives up a touchdown. Let’s keep this shutout going.’”
For the Bearcats, Chandon Draper was the nightmare the Redskins expected him to be, and Caraway was proud of the job the Kingston offense did of taking him out of plays. Offensively, however, Draper was hard to handle.
“He’s just such a hard runner,” Caraway said. “He’s tough to bring down. He’s a good football player.”
While Draper is a senior, the play of underclassmen John Poe and and Cansas Tate stood out, offering promise for Antlers’ future.
Crazy playoff possibilities
The game provided numerous other benefits for the ’Skins, including rest for the Kingston starters, who will be needed in a pivotal match against Coalgate Friday at Harold “Bulldog” Henry Field. That game will determine not only the playoff future of the two teams involved, but also the fortunes of several other teams in the district. The Redskins could finish as high as third in the district, but could just as easily miss the playoffs altogether, even if they win. Caraway said the playoff outlook for the district is as convoluted as it’s been in some time.
“I have to sit down and look at it closer, but if I have this right, if we beat Coalgate by 7 or more, we’re the third-place team. But if we win by 6, we could have something that hasn’t happened in a long time: if there’s a three-way tie, the first tie-breaker is playoff points, but if it’s still tied, then you go to a coin flip,” Caraway said. He added that a win by 5 points could feasibly result in the ’Skins missing the postseason.
But the Redskins still control their own destiny, and that’s what they’ll be focused on this week. Caraway said if they take care of business on senior night against the Wildcats, then all the other scenarios can be avoided.
“This class of seniors could be the first to make the playoffs three straight years in a long time here at Kingston, so we’ve been talking to them about that,” Caraway said.
In resting the starters, Kingston also got some time for several future starters, including quarterbacks Noah Hodges and Jacson Beal. Both led the Redskins on scoring drives.
Strong out of the gate
The ’Skins asserted their dominance early. Big hits by Aaron King, Danny Charley and Dalton Williams forced three-and-out on Antlers’ first possession. The Redskins’ offense took full advantage of the opportunity. A run by Tanner Holland, a run by Dalton Blankenship and a catch-and-run by Jake Patterson all went for double-digit gains, and an athletic run by Holland on just the fourth play from scrimmage produced the Redskins’ first 6 points. Kicker Joseph Moreno made it 7-0.
A 33-yard run by Draper, who also serves as the Bearcats’ punter, on a fake punt was among highlights of a solid drive by the ’Cats on their next possession. That campaign, however, was abbreviated short of the end zone when Jared Hayes snagged the first of his two interceptions on the night. His nifty return set Kingston up at its own 40-yard line.
A reverse flip to Paden Hayes went for 32 yards and set up Kingston’s second score, a 24-yard field goal by Moreno for a 10-0 lead.
Blankenship, Harley Cendejas, Williams and Stowe wreaked havoc on the Antlers backfield, helping to force another three-and-out.
After just missing Marcus Burleson on a fly route, Jared Hayes found Paden Hayes for a 32-yard completion and a 19-yard pass play to pave the way for the Redskins’ next score, which he took himself on a 5-yard sneak. Moreno booted the score to 17-0 late in the first quarter.
Not dead yet
The plucky Wildcats responded with their best drive of the night. Draper rattled off a 17-yarder and then hurdled a Redskin defender for a five-yard gain and the ’Cats were off and running. The Redskins, backed up against their own end zone, responded by forcing a fourth down. Hodges made Antlers regret the decision to go for it when he broke up a pass attempt to force a turnover on downs.
On the Redskins next possession, Jared Hayes did something he rarely does — he fumbled to give the ball back to the ’Cats. He quickly atoned for that miscue when he jumped in front of a Poe pass and toted it 60 yards the other way for a touchdown. The extra-point miss left the score at 23-0.
After the Kingston defense harassed Poe for two consecutive losses, a leaping grab by Taylor Thatcher gave Antlers another shot at a first down. A pass defense by Chris Stowe, however, resulted in another turnover on downs, and returned possession to the Redskins. Jared Hayes soon capitalized with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Cendejas.
Draper and Thatcher helped to keep the chains moving for Antlers on the next drive, but the ’Skins once again bowed their back at the end zone. After missing on three tries in the red zone, the Bearcats lined up for a 27-yard field goal. Stowe smelled out the fake and made a possession-ending tackle to leave the score at 30-0 halfway through.
If you blinked, you may have missed the second half, because both teams agreed to run the game clock most of the way to avoid injury. Among offensive highlights for Kingston was a 24-yard pass from Hodges to Moreno, and a sneak by Hodges for a touchdown.
Late in the fourth, Blankenship hauled in a Beal pass and flattened a would-be defender at the goal line for the game’s final touchdown.