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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Knox scores three TDs to lead Ardmore comeback

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  • ALTUS — The Ardmore Tigers didn't have to win on Friday to stay in the Class 1-5A district title race. But, the Tigers played like the season was on the line after trailing by two touchdowns en route to a 35-34 win over the Bulldogs. Ardmore's first drivae ended with a 41 yard field goal attempt that was blocked by Altus. The big play seemed to give the Bulldogs a confidence boost and got the Hightower Memorial Stadium crowd on its feet. The block might have given fans the first idea that a tough game was ahead, but the Tigers knew much earlier. “They were ready to play at five when we rolled up,” Ardmore coach Doug Wendel said. “I knew they would play with everything that they had. It was senior night and they have a chance to go to the playoffs. They played phenomenal, passionate football. They put four quarters together tonight.” Altus scored first on a 15-yard touchdown run by sophomore Taven Birdow around the left side of the Tiger defense. Ardmore responded quickly with Kevion McGee returning the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. Four plays later, the Bulldogs went back in front on a six-yard run by T.J. McGill to complete a four-play drive over 60 yards. Altus quarterback Jayden Benway set up the score on a delayed read-option keeper that resulted in a 42 yard gain. The Bulldogs risked an onside kick after the touchdown and Malcolm Lewis recovered the ball to set up an Altus possession. Ardmore's defense stopped Altus and went into halftime trailing 14-7. “I had a lot of doubts at halftime of whether we were going to come back and fight or not,” Wendel said. “I thought we would. They physically whipped us up front. Their offensive line whipped our front seven. And that running back is a physical dude to bring down. I don't know if doubt is the right word. But, there was concern and some heart to heart chats at halftime.” The Tigers tied up the game at 14-14 five plays into the second half when O.J. Walker ran 24 yards for a score, diving over the pylon into the endzone. Ardmore appeared poised to take a lead when Keyshawn Brown intercepted a Benway pass deep in Altus territory. Two Tiger throws to the endzone were incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs. Birdow scored his second touchdown late in the third quarter on an 18 yard run to give Altus a 21-14 lead with 2:21 left in the quarter. Altus pulled off another onside kick, aided by a bounce approximately 15 yards into Ardmore territory, and recovered at the Tiger 32. Altus took a three touchdown lead when McGill scored from a yard out on the third play of the drive. The Tigers cut the lead to 28-21 on a short yardage run by Kydrick Knox. Ardmore recovered an onside kick of its own after the score and Knox darted 33 yards up the home sideline to tie the game five plays later at 28-28. Altus was forced to punt on its next drive and the short kick set up Ardmore at the 28. Knox struck again on a similar run up the right side of the Bulldog defense for 25 yards and a 35-28 Ardmore lead. Birdow scored an impressive 80 yard touchdown run two plays into the ensuing drive, beating three defenders over the last 15 yards. But, a hooked extra point attempt kept Ardmore in front 35-34, and they were able to hang on for the victory. “They may have run out of gas and our speed got them at the end,” Wendel said. “We've got to get better. We're certainly not where we need to be. But, to go on a long road trip and to fight back after being down two scores, that's something we can build on.” The gutsy comeback win sets up a district title game in Week 10 against Lawton MacArthur. “When it gets to this point of the season you really just hope to survive,” Wendel said. “We'll be ready for Lawton MacArthur. We know they're bringing a real good football team and are peaking at the right time. It's going to be a great challenge, but at the same time what else can you as for? Playing at Noble Stadium in Week 10 for the district championship. You can't draw it up any better, if you ask me.”
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