SALINA, OK —
When you have enough horses in the stable, you can get a lot of work done. In Salina’s case, work was completed Friday night.
Ten different Wildcats ran the football Friday night, led by Jon Parsons' 93 yards rushing and a team total of 303 yards rushing, the Salina Wildcats cruised past the Huskies of Pawhuska 36-12 in front of the Wildcat faithful, earning their first nine-win season since 2009.
Salina was playing in its first playoff game since 2010 and the first time playing at home in the playoffs since 2009.
The Wildcats (9-2) will now travel to Vian next Friday night to take on the Wolverines in the second round of the Class 2A State playoffs. Vian defeated Haskell 40-14 to advance.
The Salina defense set the tone early in the contest. On the opening series on the game, Pawhuska, facing a fourth-and-two from its own 28-yard line, faked a punt and got the first down. However, a few plays later, Zalin Edwards’ pass was intercepted by Cale Backward, giving Salina the ball at midfield.
Led by a slew of rushing plays and a facemask penalty against the Huskies, Salina punched in the game’s first score, when Cullen Patterson scored from five yards out, putting the Wildcats up 8-0 late in the first quarter.
Pawhuska (4-7) was forced to punt deep from its own territory but only kicked it 29 yards. Salina took full advantage of the short-field situation, as Kyle Johnson scored from three yards out, capping off a 38-yard drive that took six plays.
On the ensuing series, Edwards was picked off by Bret Fite who returned it 48-yards for a score, but the touchdown was called back due to a holding penalty on the return against the Wildcats. However, not even the yellow hanky could stop Salina, as Backward hit Colton Burgess for a 14-yard completion — Backward’s only completion of the game — to set up Jon Parsons' nine-yard touchdown run, sending the Wildcats to a 22-0 lead at the half.
Edwards and Co. simply had no answer for the stingy Salina defense. The 'Cats only gave up 45 yards of total offense in the first half.
“We felt like we had a good game plan heading into this game,” said Salina head coach Kyle Fowler, who was coaching in his first playoff game at Salina. “We knew their quarterback (Edwards) was good and that we wanted to keep him in check, and I thought our defense did a really good job of that.”
It was much of the same story for Salina in the second half. Pawhuska’s only two touchdowns came late in the game, with the Huskies leaving in their starters, while Salina had already benched its starting group for the night.
“We have a great group of kids,” said Fowler. “They’re a coach’s dream. They come to work every day, they don’t give us any trouble and that’s all that we can ask.”
The Salina win sets up a date with undefeated Vian (11-0) next Friday night — a team Fowler knows all too well.
“They (Vian) have won a whole lot of football games,” Fowler said. “I spent three years there, and as a matter of fact, their head coach came in with me 10 years ago when we were all there together. He’s been on a nice ride, so it’ll be fun. He’s got a good bunch over there. But I like the way we’re playing right now, so we’ll see.”
When asked what it would be like to beat his old friend, Fowler simply replied, “it’d be great” — but his smile said a lot more.
The Wildcats and Wolverines will kick off at 7:30 p.m.