High School Football: Central tops Gore 14-12 but Tigers get No. 3 playoff spot, Gore gets the No. 2 spot and Hulbert wins the district title
It wasn’t the fairytale ending either the Gore or Central High football team were hoping for.
Both teams had their own versions of winning the District A-8 but yet neither came to fruition.
Central won the game yet actually dropped a playoff spot and Gore went from being unbeaten in A-8 play with a chance to even win the district with a loss to finishing in second as the Tigers defeated the Pirates 14-12 in both teams’ regular season finale on Friday at Tiger Stadium.
“If there was ever a time for there to be tri-champs it was this year,” Central senior Korrdell Jiles said. “This was the toughest district I’ve seen in four years playing since freshman year. All three teams can go as far as they want as long as they keep their heads up.”
Jiles was speaking of Central, Gore and Hulbert who by virtue of beating Savanna 54-8 finished one point — yes one point — ahead of Gore to secure the title.
Coming into the game both the Tigers and Pirates were aware of the bizarre circumstances where Central needed to win by at least nine points to win the district title and that Gore would win it by topping the Tigers or by only losing by one point.
“The goal at the end of the day was to go and win the football game,” Central coach Jeremy Thompson said. “We did that and I’m proud of them. I know that it hurts that we aren’t district champs and we had lots of opportunities to do that but we didn’t come through.”
Central (8-1 overall 5-1 A-8) had one last shot to win the district title after forcing a Gore turnover and taking over possession with 1:42 left in the game and leading 14-12.
The Tigers took over at their own 40-yard line and drove the field all the way down to the Pirates’ six-yard line with under 10 seconds left in the game.
With 8.8 seconds left in regulation Jiles’ pass to Tanner Loggains fell incomplete with 0.2 seconds.
On the final play Jiles tried to pass to Taylor Cottrell but the pass went incomplete as standing room only crowd at Central was left quiet.
“We had a legit shot there at the end,” Thompson said. “We were in the red zone three times that we didn’t punch it in and there were opportunities that we needed to take advantage of but know it’s a whole another season.”
Gore (8-2, 5-1) came into the game riding an eight-game winning streak, weren’t happy with the result either.
The Pirates forced three turnovers, controlled the pace of the game and got the Tigers to play their style of football.
“We shot ourselves in the foot three times,” Gore coach Brandon Tyler said. “I think we were inside the 10 three times and didn’t score. Missed an extra point and it adds up, stuff we have to have at the end of the game. Proud of the kids though, they fought hard, came back in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
After stopping Central on a 4-and-1 from Gore’s five-yard line, the Pirates put together a 15-play drive that featured 14 runs that was capped by a Tommy Smith five-yard touchdown run that made it 14-12 Central with 4:53 left in the game.
Gore — who hasn’t had much of a kicking game all season — went for a two-point conversion that if converted would’ve really made Central’s hopes of winning their first-ever 11-man district hopes razor but Central stopped Gore’s run play.
“I’m sad that we lost but I’m happy get a home playoff game,” Smith said. “It hasn’t happened since 2011 so it feels really good.”
Smith rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries including the score and had a fumble recovery on defense while James Dover rushed for a game-high 108 yards on 28 carries.
Quarterback Weston Shanks threw for 79 yards including a touchdown and two interceptions on 3-of-9 passing.
Damion Dover had 64 yards receiving on a pair of catches including a 30-yard touchdown reception.
Kanton Washington and Shanks both had interceptions for Gore who will host Wynnewood (7-3) in their Class A opening round matchup on Friday at 7 p.m.
“Hopefully our district can go and compete and be in good shape,” Tyler said. “We get a home playoff game and that’s something we haven’t had in a long time at Gore. We’ll battle next week and see what happens.”
Central led Gore 14-6 going into halftime.
The Tigers were happy knock off their Sequoyah County foe for a second-straight year but felt empty inside knowing how close they came to winning the district title.
“It’s just weird and hard to explain the feeling that you have,” Central two-way senior lineman Canyon Deem said. “You won but then deep down you know you lost. We’re 8-1 let’s get ready for the playoffs.”
Deem was like a one-man wrecking crew for the Tigers as the senior had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown to go along with 12 tackles including six for loss and a sack.
“We won the game but we were chasing that district title,” Deem said. “Coach was telling us to keep our heads up and get ready for the playoffs.”
Unlike Gore who gets the comforts of playing on their home field, Central will hit the road for a three-hour bus ride to take on Wayne.
Wayne (8-2) will host Central on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Class A opener.
Thompson didn’t want his team sulking in the bizarre feeling that was Friday’s game and tried to shift their attention to the playoffs.
“As big of game as this was, next week’s is bigger,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely a weird situation that we are in with the three-way tie and how it works but at the end of the day we are all going to the playoffs. We all get to go and make our own run going forward and control our own destiny.”
Jiles threw for 138 yards on 16-of-24 passing including a touchdown and two interceptions.
Tanner Loggains who recorded his state leading 12th interception of the season led the Tigers with 75 yards receiving on four catches including a 26-yard touchdown.
“Beating Gore 14-12 was nice but we wanted districts real bad,” Loggains said. “It was a down turn but we’ll for sure be ready for next week.”
Garrett Meadows had a sack while Hayden Caughman and Brayden Coble both had fumble recoveries.