The game changing play was mere inches away for Southmoore, but it fell in the opposite direction.
With minutes left on the clock, new quarterback Jaedyn Scott, who had run all over Deer Creek, found Trevor Eilenberger with a pass that looked like it ended right on the goal line. The referees froze before signaling Antlers ball.
It was fourth down, but hardly the only opportunity that didn’t fall Southmoore’s way in a 21-13 Deer Creek win on Thursday in Moore.
“We had opportunities,” head coach Jeremy Stark said. “Before the game, I said our keys are we’ve got to capitalize on our opportunities and we can’t get behind the chains, by penalties, fumbles, busted assignments. We’re going to watch the film and get better. It ends up being a scrimmage.”
The first productive Southmoore drive even ended with a Deer Creek goal line stand. Later, the SaberCats needed two bites of the cherry to tie the game in the second half, and even then a missed point after attempt kept them from doing that.
It was just one of those nights.
“We’re inexperienced,” Stark said. “That’s not an excuse. We’ve got 54 kids on our roster who haven’t stepped on the field under Friday Night lights. We’ve got two more weeks to right that ship.”
But there were positive moments. Sophomore Scott scampered for 119 yards on 15 carries and had 41 yards passing, with five completions on 17 attempts.
Experience showed on the other side of the ball, with the senior Hunter Freese spreading out the SaberCats defense. He had 22 completions on 31 attempts for 266 yards, and most of that went toward senior Logan Huslig’s 10 catches for 123 yards.
Whatever Freese threw up, Huslig was there to find it, and it punished a young Southmoore secondary.
Deer Creek took a surprise lead when Freese and Huslig started finding each other. It was Huslig who first caught a pass to take the Antlers inside the red zone, so it wasn’t surprising when, with a run play in between, he was the one taking a screen pass 18 yards to the end zone.
After that, Southmoore’s offense woke up. Scott scampered for 55 yards on three plays, getting them inside Antlers territory for the first time on the night.
He thought he had provided the first touchdown, but a penalty brought the ball back when the Southmoore line pushed him there. That halted momentum dead, and Elijah Brewer’s run from the two-yard-line couldn’t get the SaberCats through on fourth down.
That allowed Deer Creek to double its advantage. Freese slung it around again to get the Antlers down field, then found Dylan Diaz on an innocuous out pass that turned into a 24 yard scamper for a touchdown.
If that set off alarm bells on the Southmoore sideline, senior Rae’Quan Wicks must have heard them.
With time running down in the half, he and Scott handed the SaberCats some momentum. Scott brought them down to their own 45, and Wicks did the rest, running down the left, then up the middle of the field for a 55 yard touchdown run.
Wicks finished with 72 yards on 111 carries.
The Antlers essentially invited Southmoore to tie the game up midway through the third quater. First a short punt gave them the ball at the Deer Creek 21, but new quarterback Donovan Gaines’ pass was tipped incomplete for a turnover on downs.
On the very next play, Trent Kimmel hauled in Freese’s lob pass for an interception at the Deer Creek 40. This time the SaberCats did take advantage, with a short drive ending in Donavan Benton’s three-yard touchdown run.
But the snap was botched on the PAT, meaning, after all of that, Deer Creek still held onto a one-point lead.
They made it eight when Logan Stanley fell through for a one-yard touchdown run, though Huslig made the score with a fantastic 24 yard catch to put the Antlers in position to drive home the final dagger.