The Jay Bulldogs saw their turn around come full circle from 1-9 to 9-1 on Friday, Oct. 27, as they beat Tahlequah Sequoyah 28-27 in overtime to claim the 3A-7 district championship.
This is the first time the Bulldogs have clinched the district title in at least seven years.
“It is a great feeling,” said Coach Warren Kirk. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to be district champions and prove people wrong.
"People outside ourselves didn’t believe in us. Going out and achieving that is a great feeling and I am happy for the kids and everybody involved.”
Friday night required another miracle finish from the Bulldogs - something the team has found itself in before this season.
“All year long we have put ourselves in some tough situations and these kids just keep scratching and clawing and finding a way to get it done," Kirk said. "I can’t say enough about them."
Late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, Jay saw Tahlequah Sequoyah erase a seven-point deficit to take a one-point lead.
This happened following a Jay turnover. Another turnover and the Indian set themselves up deep in Jay territory at the Bulldogs one-yard with just minutes left in the game.
A Tahlequah Sequoyah touchdown would have put the Indians up 15 points and make comeback something hard for Jay to pull off.
After setting up shop at the one, the Indians had four cracks at a touchdown with a first down and goal.
Four times Tahlequah Sequoyah tried to get the football in for the touchdown and each time the Jay defense turned them away.
“Here is a team like Tahlequah Sequoyah on your one-yard line fixing to go up 15 points they are a lot bigger than you up front," Kirk said. "They have two great players in the backfield and out defense steps up and holds them four plays in a row it was a great a four play defensive stand."
Following the goal line stand, Jay still had a task before them. They were 99 yards from their goal line and needed eight points to tie the game with time ticking off the clock.
Gabe Simpson and the Bulldogs offense methodically moved the football down the field and with a little over a minute left in the game Simpson through a scoring strike to wide receiver Brenden Ryan and with the two-point conversion and the game was tied.
Jay then held Tahlequah Sequoyah on four downs and got the football back with second left on the clock to run it out.
In overtime, Jay got the football first and Simpson threw the football to Ryan for the score. Adam Beccera was good on the PAT and Jay led 28-21.
Now it was time for Tahlequah Sequoyah to get the football and on their third play scored a touchdown.
The Indians elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win. But once again they were held short of the goal and J.B. Earp Stadium erupted in celebration.
“We get the ball back and we know we can go score in a hurry. We just wanted another chance to score and we came out slinging it and we moved the ball down field and tie the game up and send it into overtime," Kirk said. "Then we get another goal line stop on the extra point to give us the win and the district title."
Jay took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 19-yard Simpson to Ryan touchdown pass. The Indians tied the game last in the period to tie the game up at 7-7. And that is not only how the first quarter finished but how the half ended as well.
Simpson scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter for a 13-7 advantage.
Tahlequah Sequoyah gained the lead late in the third quarter and was marched for another touchdown early in the fourth quarter following a turnover. The Indians led 21-13 when the final sequence took place.
Simpson completed 20-30 passing for 265 yards in the game. He also rushed for 42 more yards.
Ryan had 160 yards on nine catches and three touchdowns.
“Offensively we were a little sluggish at times but in the end we went on the 99-yard drive and tied it up and sent it into overtime,” said Kirk. “Defensively we played pretty well.
"There were a few times we were out of position had busted coverage but all in all we played pretty good defense. Overall I was pretty pleased with how we played. Tahlequah Sequoyah is a good football team. Being able to beat a team like that is big.”
The win made the turnaround come full circle, from last to first in the district and from 1-9 to 9-1.
The turnaround has gotten the attention of state-wide media, and the Bulldogs are ranked in the top 10 in all the state’s football polls.
“It is a great feeling," Kirk said. "We knew we were better than what our record indicated last year. We had opportunities for our record to better last year.
"Coming out this year and getting it done at 9-1 and looking forward to playing football in November and hopefully December."
The Bulldogs have a bye week to prepare for the first round of the playoffs. District 3A-7 is cross bracketed with district 3A-8 with the fourth place team coming to Jay for a 7:30 p.m., game on Friday, Nov. 10.
While it's an off-week on the books, Kirk said he plans to have his team out practicing - to make them better Bulldogs.
"We are going to work on individual stuff and install some more plays and make ourselves better," Kirk said. "We could play one of three teams in the playoffs.
"We are going to go scout some teams this week and get prepared to play in the first week of the playoffs."
That opponent will not be officially known until after Friday night’s games.
A number of scenarios are still possible until Kirk and the Bulldogs know who will become their first round opponent.
Stigler is currently in fourth place in District 3A-8, but only one game ahead of Roland and one game behind Idabel, Muldrow and Eufaula.
1965 (won the Lucky Seven Conference title to go to the playoffs)