GLARING MISTAKES: Tahlequah drops home opener Friday to Wagoner

·3 min read

Sep. 11—Mistakes were a thorn in the side for Tahlequah Friday.

The Tigers committed seven penalties, turned the ball over twice and couldn't capitalize inside the Wagoner 10-yard line during the second half and fell to the Bulldogs, 21-7, in their home opener at Doc Wadley Stadium.

Tahlequah, who was coming off a convincing 49-0 win over Tulsa McLain in its season opener last week, fell to 1-1 under head coach Brad Gilbert.

"It's just part of it. It's growing pains," Gilbert said. "We as a staff have got to do a better job of preparing these guys. I thought we had a good game plan on both sides of the ball.

"There's only one way you can learn and that's on Friday nights. You can do all you want to throughout the course of the week, and I think we got better. It was just the mistakes, and they were glaring at times."

The Bulldogs, the defending Class 4A state champions who improved to 1-1, took control early and went up 14-0 on a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gabe Rodriguez in the opening quarter and a 36-yard scoring run by running back Logan Sterling in the second quarter.

The Tigers climbed back in before halftime on a 60-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 2-yard TD run by senior quarterback Tyler Joice with 2:28 showing on the clock. The drive was highlighted by back-to-back completions from Joice to receiver Parker Lane (39 yards) and running back Malik McMurtrey (16 yards).

Tahlequah couldn't capitalize on a golden opportunity on its first offensive possession of the third quarter when it got to the Wagoner 5-yard line. McMurtrey had a 36-yard run to give the Tigers a first and goal, but they immediately stalled and had a missed 24-yard field goal attempt by Bodee Jimerson.

"Against a good team like this, [mistakes] are going to magnify, that's just the way it works," Gilbert said. "We couldn't punch it in there when we needed to."

Wagoner got its final points with 10:33 remaining in the game when running back Braylan Roberson found the end zone on a 3-yard run to make it 21-7.

The Tigers finished with 268 total yards of offense. Joice completed 23 of 25 passes for 182 yards, but was intercepted twice. McMurtrey rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries, and Joice added 39 yards on the ground.

Eight different receivers had at least one reception for Tahlequah. Senior Parker Lane led with 62 yards on four catches, and Cale Matlock had a team-high six grabs for 28 yards.

The Tigers' defense forced one turnover — an interception by defensive back Dylan Leep, his third of the season.

The Bulldogs closed with 256 total yards and were sparked by Sterling's game-high 112 rushing yards. Rodriguez completed 12 of 13 passes for 22 yards and rushed for 76 yards.

Tahlequah will be back on the road to wrap up non-district play Friday, Sept. 17 when it visits Sallisaw.

"We're going to look back and we're going to be sick to the point where we had opportunities," Gilbert said. "But not to take anything away from Wagoner. They're a good football team and they're going to win a lot of games. It was good for us to play a team like this that's a physical football team. I thought our guys responded well on both sides of the ball, especially defensively."

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