Black Diamonds tame Tahlequah Tigers for 2nd straight win
It wasn’t a pretty first half of football for the Sallisaw Black Diamonds, but things ended up sparkling in the second half thanks to their defense.
Sallisaw used three interceptions, one of which was turned into a pick-6 and outscored Tahlequah 30-14 in the second half as the Black Diamonds tamed the Tigers 3723 on Friday night at Perry F. Lattimore Stadium.
Down 16-15 with 8:34 left in the third quarter, the Black Diamonds (2-1) marched down and took the lead for good. Aided by a Cole Stephens 43-yard run, the Black Diamonds capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass from Brock Streun to Braxton Lamb. The same two connected on the two-point conversion to put Sallisaw ahead 23-16 with 3:50 left in the period.
Then, came the play of the game. After defensive stops by Sallisaw’s Bodie Adams and a pass break-up by Parker Pratt, the next play ended with Pratt returning an interception 36 yards to paydirt with 2:48 left in the quarter. Brian Castor’s extra point put Sallisaw ahead 30-16 going into the final period.
The Sallisaw defense rose to the occasion once more. After the Tigers (0-3) got back into the red zone, Max Stump broke up a touchdown pass in the end zone, which was followed by a quarterback sack by Noah Flores and another pass breakup in the end zone by Cooper Cox on fourth down to thwart the Tigers.
The Black Diamonds appeared to ice the game with Stephens’ four-yard TD run. Castor’s PAT gave Sallisaw a threetouchdown lead at 37-16 with 6:22 left to play in the game.
However, the Tigers made things interesting, scoring on the ensuing drive to cut the deficit to 37-23 with 4:22 remaining in the game.
Tahlequah tried and succeeded in recovering its own onside kick, but the possession was short-lived as on the very next play Kolten Riggs picked off the pass. Sallisaw then ran out the clock.
“They’re a very talented football team,” first-year Sallisaw coach Brandon Tyler said about the Tigers. “The Robins kid is one of the best receivers we’ll see all year long. I’m proud of our defense and our defensive staff — they had a great defensive plan going all night long.”
The Black Diamonds broke the scoreless deadlock on Streun’s 26-yard touchdown run. Castor’s extra point put Sallisaw ahead 7-0 with 6:32 left in the opening quarter.
The Tigers responded with a scoring drive that ended with a 27-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 7-3 with 4:44 remaining in the period.
It appeared as if the Black Diamonds had retaken the lead in the quarter’s final minute. Flores blocked a Tahlequah punt, and Hunter Smith picked up the loose ball and went into the end zone with 40 seconds left in the first queer. However, Sallisaw was called for a penalty, nullifying the score.
Early in the second quarter, the drive off the nullified score stalled, and Sallisaw’s punter, Broque Oft, punted the ball, which was downed at the Tahlequah 1 with 11:01 left before halftime.
After a pass break-up by Craten Sides, Stephens picked off the Tahlequah quarterback’s pass at the Tahlequah 11 with 10:48 remaining in the first half.
Just 33 seconds later, Streun appeared to have scored his second TD on a four-yard run, but a holding penalty nullified the score. Castor attempted a 21-yard field goal, but it sailed wide right to keep Sallisaw ahead 7-3 with 8:42 left before halftime.
Aided by a Sallisaw personal foul/face mask penalty, the Tigers capped the ensuing 80-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run with 6:05 remaining before halftime. The PAT was blocked by Mikey Maust to keep Tahlequah ahead 9-7 at halftime.
“If we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot offensively, we score four touchdowns in the first half,” Tyler said.
Then, the Black Diamonds came out of the mine in fine fashion as Kenyon Hill returned the second-half kickoff 49 yards to get the Sallisaw drive started in Tahlequah territory.
The drive ended by Stephens taking it in from eight yards out. The Black Diamonds were going to settle for another Castor PAT. However, after a penalty on Tahlequah for trying to simulate a play, the ball was moved to just outside the 1-yard line. So, Sallisaw decided to go for the two-point conversion, which was successful by Stephens, to regain the lead for Sallisaw at 15-9 with 9:52 left in the third quarter.
However, the Tigers responded with a scoring drive of their own, which ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass and a successful extra point, to regain the advantage for Tahlequah at 16-15 with 8:34 remaining in the period, setting up Sallisaw’s strong defensive performance en route to the come-frombehind victory.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Tyler said. “We challenged the kids at halftime. They came out and responded. I’m proud of them. We’re 2-0 now, and we’re looking to keep this thing going. We’re one play away from being 3-0. We’re ready to go next week to Ada (for the District 4A-4 opener).”