Pan­thers’ work pays off

SSHS runs by Pryor in opener

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­omas@nwadg.com ■

Pan­thers 38, Tigers 21

PRYOR, Okla. — Siloam Springs thought it would have a chance for a big play early Fri­day in its sea­son opener against Pryor, Okla.

The Pan­thers wasted no time in blow­ing the top off the Tigers’ de­fense.

Primo Ag­behi hauled in a 63yard touch­down pass on Siloam Springs’ first of­fen­sive play, and the Pan­thers gave first-year coach Bran­don Craig a vic­tory in his SSHS de­but with a 38-21 vic­tory at Tiger Sta­dium.

“I was proud of them,” said Craig. “We made a lot of mis­takes tonight. We’ve got a lot to work on, but their ef­fort was there. I was ex­cited to see that. If they just keep im­prov­ing, I’m not go­ing to set any lim­i­ta­tions on them. They’ve just got to keep get­ting bet­ter each week.”

Siloam Springs rolled out to a 24-0 half­time lead and led 38-0 in the third quar­ter, which would have been a mercy rule run­ning clock in Arkansas. How­ever, Ok­la­homa doesn’t have a mercy rule for 11-man foot­ball and the game fin­ished as sched­uled which al­lowed Siloam Springs to dig deep into its bench late in the game. Pryor scored the game’s fi­nal 21 points to set the fi­nal score.

But the fi­nal score didn’t re­flect the kind of dom­i­nance Siloam Springs dis­played for most of the game with its starters in.

The Pan­thers fin­ished with 394 yards of of­fense, in­clud­ing 255 on the ground. The Pan­thers gave up 364 yard de­fen­sively, but more than 250 of those yards came late in the game with the out­come al­ready de­cided.

“We put in some kids that we’re get­ting some film on and eval­u­at­ing other kids,” Craig said. “That’s part of the process. You’re go­ing to give some points up in that sit­u­a­tion. We weren’t happy about it by any means. But let’s give (Pryor) some credit. Their quar­ter­back’s an out­stand­ing player. They’ve got a cou­ple of re­ceivers that are re­ally tough. I think their first 22 kids are good foot­ball play­ers.”

In watch­ing film on Pryor, the Pan­thers felt like they would have an op­por­tu­nity to throw deep to Ag­behi at some point in the game.

Af­ter the SSHS de­fense got a stop of Pryor on the open­ing drive and forced a punt, the of­fense took over at the 37-yard line.

Siloam Springs quar­ter­back Lan­don El­lis took the shot­gun shap and hit the speed­ster Ag­behi on a skinny post for the touch­down.

“Yeah that’s a game plan deal,” Craig said. “We knew com­ing in that we had a chance to move the safety over to the two-re­ceiver side and get Primo iso­lated. It was a lit­tle bit of ball where he had to go get it, but he did a great job of turn­ing it on and go­ing af­ter it.”

Ag­behi knew the play was in the works.

“All week coach has been pres­sur­ing me,” he said. “We’ve been work­ing on it non stop. He’s been pres­sur­ing me, putting some hard work on me, mak­ing dif­fer­ent peo­ple guard me. I’ve been hyped. I’ve been ready. I’ve been pre­par­ing for it men­tally and phys­i­cally.”

Up 7-0, Siloam Springs then turned to its de­fense to make some stops.

Pryor quar­ter­back Trap­per Gil­strap con­nected on passes of 21 and 26 yards to Joey Wallen and Gar­rett Mitchell and moved the ball to the 10-yard line. But on fourth and one a bad snap led to a turnover on downs.

Penal­ties sunk Siloam Springs on its next two of­fen­sive pos­s­e­sions which led to punts. A strong punt re­turn gave Pryor great field po­si­tion, but the Pan­thers got an­other turnover on downs to keep the 7-0 lead.

Siloam Springs moved the ball to the Pryor 1-yard line on its next pos­ses­sion, but a fum­bled snap from the Pan­thers led to SSHS kick­ing a 24-yard field goal by Chris­tian Mar­ro­quin to go up 10-0.

Kaiden Thrailkill re­cov­ered a fum­ble for the Pan­thers on their next de­fen­sive pos­ses­sion and two plays later Thrailkill scored from 14 yards out for a 17-0 lead.

“It was def­i­nitely tough. I was def­i­nitely gassed,” Thrailkill said. “I mean af­ter I scored that touch­down I came off to the side­line and threw up. But it was worth it. Every sec­ond of it was worth it.”

Af­ter the Pan­thers forced a Pryor punt, Thrailkill went back to work on of­fense. He ran for 40 yards, zigzag­ging through the Tigers’ de­fense to the 13. Thrailkill then ran the next 13 yards for the touch­down and a 24-0 lead with 1:58 be­fore half­time.

“That was our first team goal — win game one,” said Thrailkill, who rushed 18 times for 123 yards and three touch­downs. “Be­fore the sea­son even started, through­out the sum­mer, we were grind­ing. We knew we had to win game one to get this mo­men­tum go­ing be­cause we came off last sea­son with not very many wins, and that was hard on every­body. This is def­i­nitely what we needed.”

Siloam Springs used a pair of turnovers to spark its touch­downs in the third quar­ter.

With Pryor driv­ing in­side the red zone, Gil­strap was in­ter­cepted by Ag­behi, who ran it back to the Pryor 7 be­fore Gil­strap made a touch­down sav­ing tackle.

Thrailkill then scored on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to give the Pan­thers a 31-0 lead.

On the next of­fen­sive Pryor of­fen­sive pos­ses­sion, line­backer Chase Chan­dler tipped a Gil­strap pass and Spenser Pip­pin in­ter­cepted it for an­other turnover.

“We just stayed sound in our tech­nique, work­ing on it all week,” Chan­dler said. “It was pretty sloppy, but we got there. We got ball pres­sure on the QB. DBs were cov­er­ing up back be­hind us. Lineback­ers filled their holes all around. It was nice all around. We stopped the run, forced them to pass and they couldn’t com­plete it on us.”

El­lis hit Ran­som Van Asche for nine yards to the 9-yard line, and backup quar­ter­back Tay­lor Pool ran the fi­nal dis­tance for the touch­down and a 38-0 lead with 2:43 re­main­ing in the third.

Pryor scored on the fi­nal play of the third quar­ter on a 1-yard run by Gil­strap. He ran for an­other touch­down and threw for a score to Mitchell in the fourth quar­ter.

Gil­strap rushed for 60 yards and com­pleted 29 of 42 passes for 297 yards. Mitchell caught 11 passes for 113 yards, while Joey Wallen had nine re­cep­tions for 101 yards for Pryor.

Thrailkill’s rush­ing ef­fort led the Pan­thers, who had six dif­fer­ent play­ers carry the ball. Gus­tavo Fuentes rushed 13 times for 56 yards, while Pool had five car­ries for 35 yards and sopho­more Cam Collins four car­ries for 27 yards.

“If you go to the film you’ll see that the of­fen­sive line started to gel a lit­tle bit,” Craig said. “They got af­ter it. They moved some peo­ple around, got phys­i­cal. Again that’s got to be our M.O. We’ve got to get more and more phys­i­cal each week and just keep push­ing to be bet­ter and bet­ter.”

El­lis com­pleted 7 of 12 passes for 139 yards, spread around to six dif­fer­ent re­ceivers.

On spe­cial teams, the Pan­thers un­veiled a weapon in se­nior Chris­tian Mar­ro­quin, who had seven touch­backs on all seven of his kickoff at­tempts. Mar­ro­quin also at­tempted a 51-yard field goal late in the game which came up just short.

“Every­body talks about go­ing and get­ting kids out of the hall­way, and he’s one of the kids we got out of the hall­way,” Craig said of Mar­ro­quin. “He’s made a huge dif­fer­ence for our pro­gram — tremen­dous weapon. … He’s a com­peti­tor. You know he’s got that state cham­pi­onship soccer back­ground and he wants to win.”

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to Siloam Sun­day

Siloam Springs ju­nior up­ends Pryor (Okla.) quar­ter­back Trap­per Gil­strap dur­ing the Pan­thers’ 38-21 win Fri­day over the Tigers in Pryor.

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