PRYOR, OK —
Matt McGouldrick rose from the turf and signaled emphatically for a first down with just over a minute remaining in Pryor's 21-14 district win over Tulsa Central Friday at Tiger Stadium.
McGouldrick, a senior running back, had just burst through the line for nine yards on a third-and-9 play to seal the win for the Tigers (3-2, 2-0 District 5A-4) on homecoming night.
“I knew that was the game-winner. That was the ball game after that first down,” McGouldrick said. “They were being a little cocky, so I had to get that last bit of cockiness in there.”
McGouldrick ran for a game-high 160 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and also returned an interception 32 yards for the opening score of the game.
The Tigers won on homecoming night, with queen Morgan Catron and her court watching from the east end zone, and fought off a valiant effort from Central (1-4, 0-2 5A-4) and its top athlete, quarterback D'Angelo Brewer.
“Any time No. 3 (Brewer) touches the ball it's going to be hard to tackle him,” PHS head coach Jason Freeman said. “I thought we did a really good job. He's a Division I athlete and we held him pretty well. I think our conditioning paid off there at the end.”
The Tigers were up 21-14 with just over four minutes to play in the contest when Anthony Martinez fumbled a carry on a third-and-24 from the Tigers' 41-yard-line. Central's Anthony Barre returned the loose ball to the Pryor 21, setting up a do-or-die situation for the stout Pryor defense.
The Tigers held for three plays and Brewer's final pass, a slant route for Barre, missed by a mile to give the Tigers an opportunity to run out the clock. That's when McGouldrick and the Pryor rushing attack went to work.
The Pryor offense converted on a third-and-2 deep in its own territory with just under two minutes to play before McGouldrick followed his blocks to seal the win three plays later.
“I told my teammates, if we don't get that first down, we could go to overtime like last week [a 42-41 win at Coweta], and we don't want that,” McGouldrick said. “Holding onto the football was the key. Turnovers are what win games. We both had one turnover, but our turnover cost seven points.”
McGouldrick picked off Brewer late in the first quarter after the Tigers chewed up 7:37 on the opening drive of the game, a 15-play, 68-yard march that used up all three Tiger timeouts but stalled at the Braves' 5-yard-line.
Martinez' 22-yard field goal try was wide right, and fans started to grumble.
On a third-down play from the Braves' 29 on the ensuing drive, Ryan Northcutt deflected Brewer's pass intended for running back Kejuan Jones straight up in the air. McGouldrick got under it and rumbled into the end zone.
The Braves answered on the ensuing drive, as Brewer found Jones in the end zone for a 13-yard score. Late in the second quarter, Tiger quarterback Brennon Barth motored in from three yards out on a read option to give the Tigers a seven-point cushion at the break.
The Tiger defense forced a three-and-out to open the second half before McGouldrick carried three straight times for 51 yards, the last a five-yard score to put Pryor up 21-7.
Central answered again in the third quarter, as Brewer connected with Barre for a 73-yard torch to close the gap back to seven points.
Brewer completed just four of his 15 attempts for 93 yards and a pick, but two of his completions went for scores. Jones picked up 58 yards on 14 carries. The Pryor defense limited the Braves to just 246 total yards. The Braves were also penalized 13 times for 90 yards.
“Hats off to our defense to hold athletes like that to 14 points,” Freeman said. “I'm so proud of our guys. We hung in there, do what we do. We're 2-0. We're at the top of the district, and we've just got to keep plugging along.”
Barth boosted the Tiger attack on the ground, rushing 14 times for 59 yards and a score. Martinez carried twice for 28 yards. All totaled, the Tigers ran for 261 yards on 45 carries. Pryor was 4-of-8 through the air for 26 yards.
Pryor will next travel to Grove to oppose the Ridgerunners on homecoming night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.