SEQUOYAH – Facing a fourth down inside the red zone, Rob Gilbreath knew exactly how to use Kansas’ overeager defense against itself.
The Comets defended screen passes well all night, and the Sequoyah coach took advantage of that preparedness. Defensive back Max Noe thought he was in for a treat when Josh Harwell took a step back into a slot screen route, but it was a trick.
Noe bit on the screen pass, leaving Dylan Piguet wide open for a 17-yard touchdown strike from Landon Gilbreath with 8:35 remaining. That score gave the Eagles some much-needed separation as they went on to claim a 19-0 victory in their District 2A-8 opener Friday night at the Pope Athletic Complex.
The pass was also the longest play up to that point for Sequoyah and also served as the team’s second fourth-down conversion.
Piguet, who finished with two catches for 23 yards and registered 36 yards rushing on three carries, later ran for a gain of 25 yards to the Kansas 5 after Dylan Burks intercepted Comets quarterback Seneca Steele just moments earlier, setting up a 5-yard touchdown run by Logan Hattaway with 26 seconds remaining.
Hattaway led Sequoyah on the ground with 47 yards on 16 carries.
“We had run the bubble screen three times on that drive, and I knew what they were going to think,” Rob Gilbreath said. “So we bubbled him and told him to stop and go, and it was open. And I figured it would be open because we’d had so much success with it on that drive plenty of times, and that’s what we needed.”
The Eagles (3-1, 1-0 2A-8) earned the win despite managing only 218 yards of offense while losing two turnovers, converting 2 of 12 third downs and punting seven times.
At halftime, they had only 77 yards and led 7-0. The lone touchdown was an 8-yard pass from Landon Gilbreath to Brody Nichols, who caught the throw off a deflection at the 3:30 mark of the first quarter.
Landon Gilbreath completed 7 of 9 passes for 62 yards and two scores while also rushing for 44 yards on eight carries.
“They got in a different defense than we had seen all week,” Rob Gilbreath said. “We didn’t know what defense they would be in; they had shown multiple front defenses. Anyway, we settled down and at halftime made a good adjustment. We had to run the ball up the middle and throw the ball on the perimeter, and that’s what we did. I’m kind of disappointed we couldn’t get some first downs late in the game to close the game out. We kept giving them chance after chance after chance.”
Luckily for Sequoyah, the defense overcame the offense’s struggles.
Kansas (1-3, 0-1) didn’t eclipse the century mark until late in the fourth quarter, finishing with minus-4 yards rushing and 112 yards total. The Comets also went 2-of-12 on third downs as well as 0-of-2 on fourth downs, and in addition to committing two turnovers — an interception and a fumble — they tallied only six first downs and punted eight times.
Kaden Keener hit an unsuspecting Steele from behind to force the fumble in the third quarter, thwarting a Kansas drive that saw it reach the Eagles’ 31.
“That’s a tough offense to prepare for, and coach (Brannon) Feese and the defensive staff did a great job preparing for that empty set and all the motion and all the trickeration,” Rob Gilbreath said. “For the most part, our defense played really well.”
Next up for Sequoyah is a pesky Salina squad that is coming off a 56-14 loss to No. 9 Rejoice Christian. The Wildcats and the Eagles have similar results against common opponents, having both lost to Inola and beaten Locust Grove.
Sequoyah lost to the Longhorns 29-28 while Salina fell 19-12, and the former topped the Pirates 41-20 while the latter secured a 36-0 victory.
“It’s going to be another barnburner; they’re all going to be this way,” Rob Gilbreath said. “We’re not experienced enough to just go out there and blow somebody out. Hopefully they prove me wrong sometime this year and we can do that, but it’ll be another barnburner.”