LOCUST GROVE, OK —
Locust Grove defeated 11th-ranked Hilldale in a 42-41 thriller Thursday night behind big nights from senior running back Cory Rohde and sophomore Trevor Taylor and a gutsy call from the Pirate coaching staff.
Down 41-34 with 2:47 remaining, Locust Grove scored on Rohde’s fourth rushing touchdown of the night, a 14-yarder, to cut the deficit to 41-40. The Pirate coaching staff decided to go for the win and called for a two-point conversion. Sophomore quarterback Mason Fine connected with Taylor to make the score 42-41.
The Locust Grove offense held Hilldale on their next possession thanks to two sacks, which forced a fourth-and-long that Hilldale failed to convert. The Pirates got the ball back and lined up in a victory formation.
“When I took that knee I was just so happy and grateful that our team came together in that second half. We went over a lot of adversity and came through as a team and won as a team,” Fine said about the final play of the game.
“It’s huge. We talk every week about taking that next step, that’s definitely the next step. I’m not talking about winning district or getting a home playoff game. I’m talking about showing that we can come out from behind at halftime and be resilient and keep playing, and face adversity and keep playing. That’s something we have not been able to do before here,” Locust Grove head coach Matt Hennesy said about the victory.
Rohde ended his night with 214 yards on the ground. The No. 10 Pirates improved their perfect record to 7-0 and 4-0 in District 3A-7 after the program-defining win.
The game started with the makings of a defensive battle after both teams forced turnovers-on-downs, but Hilldale (5-2, 3-1 3A-7) struck first 3:45 into the game with a 59-yard run from quarterback Chandler Puckett. The deficit was the Pirates' first of the season.
Puckett put in a Johnny Manziel-like effort for the Hornets, tallying over 500 yards of total offense and finding the end zone on four occasions.
The Pirates answered Puckett’s touchdown after marching down the field and scoring on a 3-yard run by Rohde. Locust successfully converted a two-point conversion to knot the score at 8 apiece.
After Hilldale took the lead again on their next possession, Rohde evened it back up at 14 with a 63-yard run. On the Hornets’ next possession, Locust Grove took their first lead of the game after Taylor scooped up a fumble and returned it for 26 yards to give his team a six-point advantage.
After trailing for the first time of the night, Hilldale took control, scoring 20 unanswered points to go into the locker room with a 34-20 lead.
Locust Grove came out firing in the second half, scoring on its first possession of the half. Fine threw his only touchdown of the night connecting with senior Traden Sokoloski for a 6-yard score. Fine and Sokoloski connected again for the two point conversion.
The Hornets drove down the field, but LG junior Calin Witt stripped the ball and recovered it at Locust Grove’s eight-yard line. Witt also forced Hilldale’s first fumble.
The Pirates failed to capitalize on the turnover, but Witt forced his third fumble of the night and Taylor recovered it, giving the Legion of Doom its fourth of six turnovers on the night. Rohde took advantage of the fumble with a 45-yard touchdown run to tie the game up for the third time at 34-34.
Hilldale finally broke the tie 4:36 into the fourth quarter with an 18-yard pass from Puckett to senior receiver Bradley Campbell for a 41-34 lead, setting the stage for the Pirates' late heroics.
Fine and the Locust Grove offense marched down the field for the game-winning score, overcoming a fourth down situation near midfield with a 4-yard pass from Fine to fellow sophomore Jason Pirtle. Pirtle played the second half while battling possible bruised kidneys.
The Pirates clinched a home playoff game and still have a shot at a perfect regular season, but Locust Grove is looking further past that.
“Our goal for the season, make it to the playoffs, take it one week at a time, just win every week, and hopefully be there in Week 15 to get that gold ball,” Fine said.
Locust will travel to Dewey next week for a non-district match up. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.