CNHI News Services
Pryor saved the best drive of its Cinderella season for when it needed it the most.
Brennon Barth scored on a 10-yard run with 13 seconds to play to send the Tigers on to the second round of the playoffs with a 27-22 win over Skiatook at Tiger Stadium Friday.
The run capped a 12-play, 60-yard drive that sent the entire home crowd into a frenzy.
"Besides our first drive, it was probably our best drive all night," Pryor head coach Jason Freeman said. "We were calm. We could have kicked a field goal [to take the lead]. We were in good shape."
"Our coach said we needed to do what we've done in the last four close games we've played," senior running back Matt McGouldrick said. "We lost one close game against Collinsville, and that was very, very tough. We weren't about to let that happen again. We had it in our minds. We drove down the field and scored."
The drive almost wasn't possible after Tiger junior tight end Ryan Ogg dropped a wide-open pass from punter Anthony Martinez on a fake with just over five minutes to play.
"We ran one [a fake punt] against Wagoner, and it was kind of a counter of what we ran against them," Freeman said. "We were just waiting for the right time. It was open, and we just dropped it. I don't go back on calling it. It was open, and we should have caught it."
However, as the Bulldogs attempted to run out the clock on the ensuing drive, the Tigers got a gift in a botched reverse pitch on a third-and-12 play. Alex McCammon recovered the fumble, and the Tigers opened up shop at their own 40 with just over three minutes to play.
"We practice our two-minute drill every day," McGouldrick said. "It was scary, but we were calm. We had time on the clock and we'd done it many times before. I had faith in us, but it was scary. It just reminded me of the Collinsville game."
The game certainly had shades of the Pryor-Collinsville game Nov. 1. The Tigers, down one and looking at a No. 1 seed, could not drive the field to end the game with a win. Instead, they went backwards, losing 20-19 and wrapping up second place in District 5A-4.
That is where the deja-vu ended for the Tigers. Down 22-21, Pryor alternated passes and runs to collect four first downs and set up Barth's fourth, and most important, TD run of the night.
Freeman called his team together twice on that last drive. "I just wanted to make sure we were in the right formation and running the right play," he said. "There was calmness. Our guys were focused and ready ... we opened it up and went four wide, kind of stretched them out a little to open some holes."
"I really want to congratulate [sophomore Dylan] T. Couch," McGouldrick said. "[Starting offensive lineman] Will Stover was injured last week, and Couch took his place and played his heart out."
Barth finished with 159 yards on 33 carries, while McLaughlin led Skiatook on 30 carries for 211 yards and a pair of short TD runs. His last, a two-yarder with 6:02 to play, gave Skiatook its first lead of the game at 22-21.
Bulldog QB Stephen Upton ran for 75 yards on six carries but was just 3-of-10 passing for 29 yards. His last throw, a Hail Mary, was swatted down by Pryor senior Kegan Yates to end the game.
Fisher Laben kicked three field goals for the Bulldogs, including a 33-yarder as time expired in the first half to cut the Pryor lead to 14-6.
Barth completed three of his five passes, all to Martinez, for 21 yards. McGouldrick, who graced the field at Tiger Stadium for the last time, added 114 yards on 19 totes. The McGouldrick-Barth tandem is the first in Pryor history to run for 1,000 yards apiece in the same season.
Pryor must travel to Lawton to face No. 5 MacArthur (9-2) Friday with a spot in the state semifinals on the line. The Highlanders edged Edmond Deer Creek 34-29 to advance. A win over MacArthur would mean the Tigers' first-ever berth in the state football semifinals.
"Our guys are ready," Freeman said. "They feel like they can beat anybody."