TOP 20 COUNTDOWN, NO. 4: Bartlesville football grabbed two wins in dramatic flair

·5 min read
Bartlesville High's Rhett Foreman celebrates shortly after catching a touchdown pass in the final minute in last season's 15-14 win at Claremore High.
Bartlesville High's Rhett Foreman celebrates shortly after catching a touchdown pass in the final minute in last season's 15-14 win at Claremore High.

(Note: This is next installation in the E-E Top 20 Countdown for the top stories from the 2021-22 school year.)

No. 4: Bruin gridders impressive in wins

Let’s be honest — a 2-8 season is not usually the stuff of ticker-tape parades and mass celebration.

But, despite Bartlesville High School’s struggles and bad luck last year on the gridiron, the Bruins still recorded a couple of exciting, dramatic, colorful victories that stood out as shining testaments to the hard work, desire, effort and persistence of this group of gritty Bruins.

The second one wasn’t noteworthy for its down-to-the-wire heart-pounding apex of excitement.

But — measured against the backdrop of the rugged Fridays in district play, the 41-19 win against an improved Putnam City West team stood out.

It stood out for another reason as the first game Bruin senior quarterback Harrison Clark would start.

Clark answered with a burst of quality — 13-of-20 passing, 196 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

He averaged 9.8 yards per passing attempt.

The game had started out like so many for Bartlesville — the other team scoring first.

When PC West scored on a play of 60 yards in the opening 2:36 to go ahead, 7-0, a shudder of déjà vu might have rippled through the Bruins’ home fans at Custer Stadium.

But, Clark and his offense then found its explosive rhythm.

By the end of the first quarter the Bruins led, 14-7. By halftime it was 28-7.

The Bruins would build a 41-7 lead before the Patriots notched their final score.

Five different Bruins scored touchdowns; kicker Vance Curran nailed 5-of-6 extra point kicks.

Freshman ballcarrier P.J. Wallace opened Bartlesville’s scoring on a two-yard run.

Sophomore tailback Austin Zink bolted to paydirt from four and three yards out for the next two scores.

Bartlesville High sophomore quarterback Simian Gilkey dives for a touchdown last season. Gilkey started the first seven games but then suffered a season-ending injury.  He transferred last spring to a Tulsa school.
Bartlesville High sophomore quarterback Simian Gilkey dives for a touchdown last season. Gilkey started the first seven games but then suffered a season-ending injury. He transferred last spring to a Tulsa school.

Senior running back/receiver Kelvin Davis racked up a seven-yard run for the final first half touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, senior Gage Keaton hauled in a Clark throw for a 30-yard receiving tally. Cameron Hightower powered six yards for the Bruins’ final touchdown.

Zink racked up 118 yards on 20 carries (5.9 ypa). Hightower and Wallace added 39 and 38 runs, respectively.

Keaton fingered four catches to amass 110 yards. Kaden Brown added seven snares for 64 yards.

While this win meant much in helping to blunt the impact of a rugged season, the Bruins’ first victory proved truly magical.

Led by starting sophomore quarterback Simian Gilkey — who won the job during the offseason and training camp — Bartlesville knocked off Claremore, 15-14, in Claremore.

It all came down to a play in the fading seconds — a moment of transcendent happiness for the hundreds of Bruin fans that made hour-long journey to attend the game.

Gilkey hit on 5-of-13 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns in his varsity debut. He also connected on the winning two-point pass.

Gilkey led the team in rushing as well (18-65, 3.6 ypa), followed by Zink, also in his varsity debut (15-of-44, 2.9 ypa).

Keaton pulled down three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Bartlesville led by a point at halftime, 7-6; Claremore couldn’t gain any traction the second half against the Bruin defense.

The Bruin offense fought through some first half struggles to finally record its first touchdown — on a 39-yard aerial scoring play from Gilkey to Keaton.

Claremore went back ahead, 14-0, with a third quarter tally.

The game then came down to …

Well, more in a minute.

At the start of the game, Gilkey had not had an auspicious showing in the Bruins’ first few possessions.

But on the fifth possession — set up by the defense with a short field — Gilkey guided the 52-yard scoring march, capped by his touchdown fling to Keaton. Keaton drew single coverage on the outside, blazed down the field and cradled the precise over-the-top pass from Gilkey on the way to the 39-yard score.

Late in the first half, Hunter McClintock intercepted a Claremore pass and returned it to the 18-yard line. But, Gilkey was sacked on the final play, and the Bruins failed to cash in.

Claremore blocked a bunt in the third quarter, leading to a quick touchdown and a 14-7 lead, with a two-point conversion.

Bartlesville failed to sustain its next several drives.

But, with 5:27 left in the game, Gilkey engineered an 87-yard push that lifted the Bruins to victory.

Key plays included an 18-yard completion to Hightower on a screen pass, and a personal foul by Claremore on Zink that placed the ball on the 16-yard line.

The Bruin drive then sputtered — but on fourth-and-four, Gilkey took off for a first-down run to six-yard line.

The Bruins soon faced fourth-and-goal. Gilkey rolled away from the rush and zipped the ball to Rhett Foreman for a touchdown that pulled the Bruins to within a point, 14-13, with just a few seconds left in the game.

Bruin head coach Jason Sport opted to go for the win on a two-point try.

But, misfortune struck — the Bruins were called for penalties on consecutive plays on the attempt, moving the ball back.

On the Bruins’ third snap of conversion try, Gilkey  once again was on the move after the snap and spotted Kaden Brown trolling open in the middle of the end zone.

Gilkey whipped him the ball and Brown’s hands smothered it for the game-winning catch.

In the glow of the glorious final minute, some other highlights took a back seat — drive-killing interceptions by Jett Scully, McClintock and Vaclaw and a fumble recovery.

It was an amazing way to start the season.

But, the momentum just never built from the dramatic success like the Bruins hoped it might.

TOP 20 COUNTDOWN UPDATE

No. 20: COPAN BASKETBALL: Hornet hoopsters hush doubters

No. 19: PAWHUSKA FOOTBALL: Huskies grind to semis

No. 18: CANEY VALLEY FOOTBALL: Trojans find a way

No. 17: COACHING CHANGES: Musical chairs at top

No. 16: BARTLESVILLE GOLF: Brown’s All-State style

No. 15: BARTLESVILLE BASKETBALL: Cheers for Bruin hoops

No. 14: OKWU SOCCER: Eagle kickers take flight

No. 13: OKWU CROQUET: Mallets heard ‘round the nation

No. 12: BARTLESVILLE TRACK: Height, speed and muscle

No. 11: BARTLESVILLE TENNIS: Runner-up warrior

No. 10: WCS CROSS COUNTRY/TRACK: Happy trails for Lady Mustangs

No. 9: DEWEY TRACK: Streak to bronze

No. 8: BARTLESVILLE SWIMMING: Howze — Golden strokes

No. 7: OKWU BASKETBALL: Elite Eight. Great!

No. 6: BARTLESVILLE FOOTBALL: Bruin football: The Wright Fit?

No. 5: OUHS BASKETBALL: Cougar hoops: Band of Winners

No. 4: BARTLESVILLE FOOTBALL: Bruin gridders impressive in wins

This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Top 20 countdown: Bartlesville High football seized 2 impressive wins