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Cougar Roll Past McAlester
10/02/18 -

Welcome back to the rivalry, McAlester.

The Ada Cougars and their archrivals to the east battled on the football field for the first time in seven years Friday night at Norris Field. And it was all Cougar until the end.

The Cougars roughed up the Buffaloes 38-13 behind a sensational quarterbacking debut by senior Tanner Gilliams, who scored on three long touchdown runs.

Ada snapped a six-game losing streak to McAlester in impressive fashion, improving to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in District 5A-3 play. The Buffaloes left town at 1-4 and 1-1.

Gilliam finished with 168 yards on just 12 carries and the three scores to lead an Ada offense that churned out 393 rushing yards.

We need a spark. And as you saw, we used him a lot in the run game,” said Ada head coach Chris Berus of the change at quarterback. “I’m very, very proud of his leadership. He’s played a lot of snaps for the Cougs. He understood how important this rivalry game was when we got it back on the schedule. Tanner did a phenomenal job leading us.”

If Gilliam seemed calm while making his first start, it’s because he was.

“I didn’t really have too many nerves before the game. The O-line hooked up really well. They open up holes for me. Every one of them (his carries) should have been a touchdown. It was a great team win,” he said.

Ada now leads the overall series against the Buffaloes 62-31-1.

“All week we’ve heard about the pressure of winning this game for this town. It’s a big deal,” Gilliam said. “A lot of the older guys around here really wanted to see this win. We worked hard all week and gave them a good run.”

After McAlester punter Chris Hilton (also the team’s quarterback) shanked a punt that netted just 13 yards, Gilliam went right to work. On Ada’s third offensive play, he raced up the middle with a 24-yard touchdown keeper. The PAT was no good, but Ada grabbed a 6-0 lead at the 7:45 mark of the first quarter.

Maximus Rhynes stopped the next McAlester drive with an interception he returned 16 yards to the MHS 43. The McAlester defense stiffened and Tovan Thomsen attempted a 48-yard field goal that was wide left with just 38 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Hilton threw his second interception — Ada’s Braden Maloy dived to make a nice catch of a pass tipped into the air — to give the Cougars the ball at the MHS 30. Matt Maloy took a handoff and galloped 26 yards to the 4-yard line and two plays later Kohner Gallagher bulled into the end zone from a yard away. After another missed PAT, the AHS lead grew to 12-0 at the 10:10 mark of the second quarter.

Another McAlester blunder gave Ada good field position again. A snap sailed over Hilton’s head. He hustled to retrieve it and got a short kick off that gave the Cougars the ball at the Ada 39.

Tailback Walt LaBove burst through the line for a 32-yard gain and Gilliam scored on a 29-yard run down the right sideline. Phillip Jones kicked the extra point that put Ada on top 19-0 at the 8:14 mark of the second quarter.

Gilliam’s finest play came on Ada’s next series and it didn’t even count.

A low snap got past the Ada QB and he hustled all the way back to the AHS 2-yard line to scoop it up. He avoided a couple of would-be McAlester tacklers, made a move to the far sideline and outran the defense on his way to an 80-yard touchdown jaunt.

A penalty nullified the highlight-reel long scoring play.

Berus, like all the Ada fans among the huge crowd inside Koi Ishto Stadium, marveled at the play.

“The center snapped a low roller — a worm-burner as we like to call it — and it gets by Tanner and he picked it up,” he recalled. “He’s just a great athlete. He had guys blocking for him. What I was proud of is that the other guys weren’t stopping on the play. They were looking to make something out of nothing. It was fun to watch.”

McAlester had two cracks late in the first half to get on the scoreboard.

The Buffaloes drove to the 19 before settling for a 37-yard field goal by Kaden Webb with just under a minute left. But a penalty negated the kick and pushed McAlester back five yards. Webb tried again from 42 yards, but that field goal try sailed wide left.

Trent Pickens then picked off an errant pass by Gilliam and returned it to the Ada 30-yard line.

Hilton gained 14 yards to the Ada 4 with just two seconds left in the first half. MHS coach James Singleton rolled the dice and decided to go for it instead of attempting a short field goal. Running back A.J. Martin took a pitch from Hilton, but he was tackled for a loss as time expired.

Halftime: Ada 19, the Buffs zip.

The Cougars delivered a pair of knockout blows to start the third quarter.

Gilliam delivered the first one, on a nifty 42-yard TD run at the 7:50 mark. After the Cougars forced McAlester to punt on its first drive of the period, Kobe Burgess hauled in the ball at the AHS 30, made a few Buffaloes miss and sped to the end zone for a 70-yard kick return. A bad snap spoiled the first PAT, but Jones made the second one and Ada pushed its lead to 32-0 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.

“The punt return with Kobe was incredible. That dude is special. He just has that it factor, that athleticism,” Berus said.

Running back Ethan Presgrove tacked on Ada’s final points of the game on a 4-yard run with just 1:05 left in the third quarter. Terrell Gates blocked the PAT attempt, but by that time Ada had forged a 38-0 lead and reserves had flooded the field.

McAlester scored two late touchdowns but Ada’s first-team defense left with a shutout intact.

“Our defense played phenomenally. Our ones didn’t get scored on,” Berus said. “They had some opportunities to score and got it close, but we kept them out of the end zone. It was just a great ballgame all the way around.”

McAlester caught up with Ada on the stat sheet over the final quarter-plus of the game. Ada finished with 393 yards, all on the ground, while McAlester rushed for 206 yards and Hilton completed 15-of-26 passes for 166 yards for 372 total yards.

Presgrove had a solid 79 yards on 15 carries for Ada, while backup quarterback Zac Carroll rushed for 67 yards on just five tries.

Martin led the Buffaloes with 97 yards on 16 carries while Caleb Squyres led the MHS receivers with four catches for 97 yards.

Caleb Squyres led the way with four receptions for 87 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Buffs also totaled 208 yards on the ground, as Martin led the team with 97 yards on 16 carries.

Matt Maloy led Ada’s defensive charge with 12 tackles, while Braden Maloy and LaBove added eight stops each.

“We reestablished this rivalry the way it needed to be. I’m very proud of our program,” Berus said.

Ada is at home again in Week 6, hosting Glenpool.

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