GROVE- In a wild game that featured 10 plays of 25 yards or more, it appeared that Kyle Summerfield's 55-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter would be enough for Grove to hold off the East Central Cardinals on Friday evening.
But Cardinal quarterback John McDavid had one more bullet left. Facing a fourth and five at the Ridgerunner 45 with just over one minute to play in the game, McDavid scrambled right and found Damian Gibson over the middle for a 45-yard touchdown that would give East Central a 38-35 win.
The victory all but wrapped up the district title for the Cardinals (8-1, 6-0) while relegating the Ridgerunners (6-3, 4-2) to third place with one week remaining in the season.
McDavid's third and final touchdown pass of the game capped a second half comeback for the Cardinals after it was the Ridgerunners who came out firing to start the game. Quarterback Adam Steffenson found Buck Maples for a 26-yard completion to convert a third and nine on the game's opening possession, then found Tylor Leffel on a carbon copy of the play for a 34-yard touchdown.
Steffenson would then find Brody Scott for an 80-yard pass to the Cardinal one-yard line on Grove's next possession. Steffenson would punch it in on the next play for the first of two rushing touchdowns for the junior quarterback to put Grove up 14-0 in the first quarter.
But East Central would take advantage of a Grove fumble to get back in the game. Recovering the ball at the Grove 29, the Cardinals would cash in when McDavid found Dino Teague for a 13-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead in half early in the second period.
After a field goal by Antonio Escobedo made the score 14-10, East Central had all of the momentum as the clock ticked toward halftime. But the Ridgerunners came back with another touchdown. Steffenson started the drive with a 21-yard pass to Scott, followed by runs of 12 and 15 yards by Maples and Jerrod Leach. Maples then swept right for a six-yard score to extend the lead to 21-10.
East Central would waste no time striking back. Malachi Neal took the ensuing kickoff on the left hash then ran across the field before barreling up the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown.
After a Grove punt was downed at East Central's 16-yard line, it appeared the Cardinals were poised to take the lead just before halftime. But after a block in the back penalty on the Cardinals, one of 13 called against the visitors for 100 yards, East Central was backed up to their own nine. On the next play, McDavid would fumble the snap and while picking it up he was hit hard by Grove defensive end Shaun Innocenti. The resulting fumble was recovered by the Ridgerunners Josh Friend.
Three plays later Steffenson would run it in on a bootleg with 23 seconds left to give Grove a 28-17 halftime lead.
But the Cardinals would show why they've been a top-five team all season in the third quarter. Taking over at their own 49 on their second possession of the half, the Cardinals moved crisply down the field in six plays, with McDavid finding Teague for another touchdown, this time from 26 yards out.
After moving the ball to midfield the Ridgerunners were forced to punt again, with Leffel making a diving play to down the ball just short of the goal line. But the Cardinals wasted no time covering the 99 yards. McDavid found Gibson for 26 yards on the first play. On the next, Stanvon Taylor raced 73 yards to the endzone to give East Central the lead for the first time in the game.
The Ridgerunners found themselves unable to generate much offense in the second half, reaching midfield on their final four possessions but getting no further, while only gaining four yards total on the ground over the final two quarters. But Summerfield's interception nearly saved the day for Grove. After moving the ball from their own 16 to the Grove 44, the Cardinals faced a third and nine. McDavid tried to fit in a screen pass, but Summerfield stepped in front of it and took off the other way, barrelling over two would-be tacklers at the 20 before rumbling to the end zone with the score.
But McDavid and the East Central receivers would prove to be too much. Throwing mostly on rollout passes, McDavid completed 16 of his 28 attempts for 239 yards. Teague would catch seven passes for 130 yards and two scores while Gibson finished with 118 yards on five catches.
Steffenson matched McDavid nearly pass for pass, completing 15 of his 29 attempts for 238 yards and one touchdown. He also had two touchdowns on the ground. Brody Scott finished wih 118 yards on four catches.
The Ridgerunners will wrap up the regular season with Senior Night against the Tahlequah Tigers on Friday. The Tigers, 2-7 overall and 1-6 in district play, loss to the Claremore Zebras 44-6 last week.
East Central 38, Grove 35
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
EC 0 17 14 7 38
GHS 14 14 0 7 35
8:02 GHS Leffel 34-yd pass from Steffenson (Krause kick) GHS 7-0.
3:45 GHS Steffenson 1-yd run (Krause kick) GHS 14-0.
11:06 EC Teague 13-yd pass from McDavid (Escobedo kick) GHS 14-7.
5:38 EC Escobedo 30-yd FG GHS 14-10.
3:48 GHS Maples 6-yd run (Krause kick) GHS 21-10.
3:31 EC Neal 76-yd kickoff return (Escobedo kick) GHS 21-17.
:23 GHS Steffenson 2-yd run (Krause kick) GHS 28-17.
7:16 EC Teague 26-yd pass from McDavid (Escobedo kick) GHS 28-24.
3:31 EC Taylor 76-yd run (Escobedo kick) EC 31-28.
2:49 GHS Summerfield 55-yd interception return (Krause kick) GHS 35-31.
1:04 EC Gibson 45-yd pass from McDavid (Escobedo kick) EC 38-35.
Grove East Central
Total 321 485
Rush 31-83 32-202
Pass 238 283
C-A-I 15-29-1 17-29-1
First Downs 12 14
3rd Down Conv. 5/12 4/12
Penalties 6-75 13-100
Turnovers 2 (1 int., 1 fumb.) 2 (1 int., 1 fumb.)
RUSHING - GHS: Maples 18-71, Leach 3-15, Steffenson 10- (-3). EC: Taylor 3-103, Burge 16-75, Wise 8-16, McDavid 4-6, Brown 1-4.
RECEIVING - GHS: Scott 4-118, Leffel 3-61, Maples 2-27, Manicom 2-13, Smith 1-5, Armstrong 1-2, Phillips 1-1, Leach 1-1. EC: Teague 7-130, Gibson 5-118, Taylor 3-28, Wise 1-4, Brown 1-3.
PASSING - GHS: Steffenson 15-29-1int-1td-238yds. EC: McDavid 16-28-1int-3td-239yds. Taylor 1-1-44yds.