SEQUOYAH – For a while it looked as though homecoming might equal heartbreak for the Sequoyah Eagles. Ace quarterback Tristan Diaz departed early with an injury and the Eagles were forced to survive six fumbles and 111 yards in penalties.
In the end, Sequoyah relied on the running of dependable Miguel Fulgencio and the inspired performance of backup quarterback Nathan Stritzke in holding off Locust Grove 50-38 Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
Fulgencio scored three touchdowns and ran for 181 yards, none bigger than his 16-yard score with 1:11 left to play. Stritzke completed 4-of-8 passes for 71 yards, running for a touchdown and passing for another.
Stritzke, who suffered an ACL injury in preseason, saw his first action of the year after Diaz departed following the third play of the game. Diaz, who entered with an already injured ankle, left following a 52-yard run and watched the rest of the game on crutches with a heavily wrapped ankle.
The Pirates (2-1) piled up 404 yards of total offense, 66 more than the Eagles, and relied on the running of Matt Williams who scored three times and gained 173 yards.
Sequoyah (3-1) led by 17 at intermission and had momentum behind Fulgencio, who took direct snaps from the Wildcat formation after Diaz was sidelined. But Locust Grove refused to quit and pulled within 35-30 on Williams’ touchdown with 9:25 remaining.
Junior Bryce Blue recovered a fumbled Pirates punt return at the 38 and the Eagles needed two plays to score, a 12-yard blast by senior Jake Wilhite with 6:50 to go. Just 18 seconds later, Locust Grove’s Zayne Loffer returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards, slicing the Eagles’ lead to 43-38.
Sequoyah could not be assured of victory until Fulgencio rambled around right end for the clinching touchdown.
Even with Diaz out, the Eagles moved the ball freely in the first half. Fulgencio scored twice and ran for 117 yards in leading Sequoyah to a 35-18 lead.
The Eagles completed just one pass in the half, a 31-yard touchdown strike to Daike Cummings with seven seconds left, in amassing 266 yards.
Williams also gained 117 yards on the ground for Locust Grove, but the Pirates had no other consistent weapon.
Big plays were plentiful for Sequoyah in the first half. Diaz ran 52 yards to the Locust Grove one on the third play of the game with Fulgencio keeping over the right side on the next play for the score. Wyatt Townsend booted the first of his five extra points in the half to make it 7-0.
Following a blocked Pirates punt by Collin Tucker, the Eagles took over at the Locust Grove 48. On the following play, Fulgencio bolted down the sideline for a 14-0 lead with 2:23 left in the first period.
The Pirates finally scored on an 11-yard screen pass before Sequoyah answered with another sudden blow. On a misdirection play, Tucker broke free over the middle and darted 66 yards to the end zone.
With 2:17 gone in the second quarter, Williams smashed 39 yards, pulling the Pirates within 21-12. An onside kick bounced out of bounds at the Locust Grove 46, giving the Eagles a short field. After a nine-yard loss, Fulgencio exploded 42 yards to the 13. On fourth down, Stritzke scored on a 14-yard scramble.
Down 28-12, the visitors retaliated with an 81-yard kickoff return and Travis Brown’s three yard touchdown run. An interception by Stritzke gave the Eagles the ball at midfield and five players later, Stritzke found Cummings from 31 yards out.