Turnovers, Antlers' no-huddle take out young Tigers early

EDMOND — The end came swiftly for Ardmore.

Deer Creek's no-huddle offense and opportunistic defense helped usher the young Tigers into the offseason, opening up a sizeable first-half advantage en route to a 52-14 victory in the opening round of the Class 5A postseason on Friday.

The Antlers (10-1) rolled up a 35-0 advantage before Ardmore (5-6) even got on the board. But the dominance of the District 5A-2 champions was padded by Ardmore turnovers, two of which led to 14 of Deer Creek's first 21 points.

Deer Creek will host McAlester in the 5A seminfinal round on Friday.

"We've got a lot coming back; we've got a lot to be optimistic about," Ardmore coach Douglas Wendel said. "But we also know now just how far we've got to go to become an upper-echelon team.

"One positive for me is we got to play a team like that. I don't know how far they'll go, but you look at them and you can tell they've been in the weight room. You can tell their numbers are up, and it kinda shows how far we have to go."

Deer Creek quarterback Joel Blumenthal was deadly efficient on the night, finishing 9-of-14 for 214 yards and five touchdowns. His first TD toss, a 25-yard pass to Kale Jackson, put the Antlers up 7-0 less than 3 minutes into the first quarter.

But the Deer Creek defense was the main culprit in burying the Tigers.

On the next possession, Alec James picked off a pass and returned it 22 yards for a score to put the Antlers up 14-0. After the interception, Ardmore gathered itself for a strong drive covering 82 yards, only to fumble at the Deer Creek 15.

Deer Creek's Brennan Miyake scooped up the loose ball and ran 85 yards for the 21-0 cushion.

"It obviously took the wind out of our sails," Wendel said. "We made a lot of mistakes tonight. We looked like a young team.

"I think you have to give Deer Creek credit. They forced us to make those mistakes because they were a little faster and a little stronger. They did a great job."

Ardmore came out with a gameplan built to keep Deer Creek's high-powered no-huddle offense off the field. It was working until costly turnovers put the Tigers in poor positions.

Trailing 28-0 after Blumenthal's 37-yard TD pass to Jared Rayburn in the second quarter, Ardmore fumbled at its own 42. That set up Blumenthal's third touchdown pass of the night, an easy 8-yarder to Miyake after 53 yards in just four plays.

Ardmore was only outgained 285-265 in total offense, but the Tigers fumbled seven times, losing four.

Ardmore's lone TD of the first half came on Clay Atwood's 1-yard run 26 seconds before halftime. Ardmore's final points came in the fourth quarter, with the Tigers trailing 52-6.

Ardmore senior Elijah Clay blocked a punt at the Deer Creek 35, which senior C.T. Roan fell on at the Antlers' 5. Darius Lawson finished off the short drive with a 1-yard TD run and added a two-point conversion run.

"Halfway through the third and into the fourth, that's what I was looking for," Wendel said of the effort the Tigers displayed. "It's real easy for a defensive lineman to not go full speed on a punt return, and he (Clay) goes in there and blocks a punt.

"I saw a lot of fight and a lot of togetherness. That's a step in the right direction."

James was a do-everything player for Deer Creek on Friday. In addition to his interception for a touchdown and a fumble recovery, the junior had a 28-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. James finished with three receptions for 59 yards.

Jamarcus Mills led Ardmore with 69 yards rushing on six carries, and Kaine McCullough added 58 yards on 17 carries.

Erik K. Horne