By Chuck Reherman
WEATHERFORD – Early in the fourth quarter Southwest Covenant had themselves in position to derail Tipton’s plan for a state championship three-peat.
The experience of the Tigers in championship games took over at that point.
Tipton scored three times in the final nine minutes to race past the Patriots 50-34 in the class C State Championships at Milam Stadium on the campus of Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.
The three-time champion Tigers clamped down on the vaunted Patriot offensive attack in that final quarter after SWCS scored to take a 34-28 lead with 9:20 remaining.
It was the first loss of the season for the Patriots, 12-1, who had reached the state championship game for the first time since joining the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association. Tipton finished the season 13-1 and won their last 11 in a row.
It was a game that saw SWCS lead most of the night, then had to make a comeback to regain the lead, 34-28 in the fourth.
One of the keys of the game came in the fourth quarter after leading receiver Will Haas left the game with an injury (he did not return) and quarterback Ben Webb was battling leg cramps.
“Our kids did well,” SWCS head coach Trey Cloud said. “The scoreboard didn’t come out the way we wanted it, but it happens some times. That’s life.
“I am proud of those guys, I told the seniors they led well,” he said. “And, the ones that are coming back hopefully will come in with a bad taste in their mouth and come back and want it more.”
Tipton took the lead for the first time in the game with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter on a 47-yard scoring run from Semaj McBride. The touchdown came just three plays after the Patriots had broken a 20-20 tie with the go ahead score.
Jeremiah Smith ran in the two-point conversion that sent the Tigers to a 28-26 lead.
The Patriots moved the ball right down the field, but a Webb pass to the end zone was intercepted by Logan Nunley to end the threat.
The interception was one of four turnovers committed by the Patriots in the game, although two were somewhat controversial. Tipton had three turnovers in the game.
“It was frustrating to turn the ball over like that in a game like this,” Cloud said. “I’m sure both teams did have some butterflies.
“The injuries did play a factor, but we have no excuses,” he said. “It was hard to run the offense with those two out. But if, ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we would all have a Merry Christmas. That’s what my dad use to say all the time. It is what it is and that is all you can do.”
The Patriots did come back and take the lead after stopping Tipton at the SWCS 36 on a fourth down play.
A 44-yard by Trevor Kelly on the opening play moved the ball to the Tipton 20-yard line and three plays later Tyler Kelly ran into the end zone from 18-yards out. Webb ran in the conversion to give the Patriots a 34-28 lead with 9:20 left in the game.
The lead was short lived though.
Chandler’s 42-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Waugh tied the game with 8:20 remaining. The score was set up on a 27-yard run by Smith on the opening play of the drive.
The Patriots looked to come right back after Webb passed 19-yards to Haas to the Tipton 39 yard line. But, four plays later, Haas took a hard shot on a screen pass and left the game. And, the Patriot drive stalled there.
Tipton took advantage and drove for the go ahead score on a 14-yard run by Chandler. a 15-yard run by Smith followed by a 19-yard run from McBride helped set up the score.
Chandler ran in the conversion to take a 42-34 lead with 3:45 left to play.
The Patriots were forced to gamble on their next possession and on a fourth down play from their own 30, Webb’s pass went incomplete.
Tipton made the most of the gamble as McBride scored on a 17-yard run to put the game away with 1:55 left in the game. Chandler ran in the conversion to make it a 50-34 game.
“We knew it would be a game like this,” Cloud said. “It was a tie game with eight minutes left and we had out chances. We had some deep throws that went out of the end zone.
“A couple less turnovers and we could have pulled away in the first half, but that’s part of the game,” he said. “Their experience did play a factor, they come here every year. But, it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play, we have to play.”
The Patriots had a chance to take control of the game early on. On their second possession, SWCS reached the Tipton 20, but lost the ball on a fumble on the next play at the Tiger 10-yard line.
An interception of a Chandler pass by Tyler Kelly three plays later gave the Patriots the ball at the Tipton 32.
Five plays later, Webb scored on an eight-yard run to give SWCS the initial lead with 5:21 left in the opening quarter.
Tipton put together a 67-yard drive and scored on a seven-yard run by Smith to make it a 7-6 game. The Patriot defense stopped the two-point conversion to hold onto the lead.
A second Patriot turnover late in the first quarter led to a go-ahead score by the Tigers.
Chandler sored on an eight-yard run to give Tipton a 12-7 lead on the opening play of the second quarter. Chandler had connected on a 46-yard pass to Vaughn to set up the score.
The Patriots regained the lead on a 29-yard Webb touchdown pass to Haas, 14-12, with 6:10 left in the first half.
Webb had passed for 30 yards to Tyler Kelly and 14 more to Haas to set up the score.
SWCS took a 20-12 lead when Trevor Kelly scored on a 38-yard run on a double reverse play with 37 seconds left in the half.
But, Tipton scored on a 45-yard Chandler to McBride touchdown pass and tie the game 20-20 at the half.
Webb completed 16 passes for 180 yards and two scores. Hass caught eight passes for 76 yards and Cole Shaw four for 64. Tyler Kelly rushed for 148 yards on 14 carries and Trevor Kelly rushed for 116 on 10 carries.