The Grove Ridgerunners will have their last, best and only chance to win the District 5A-4 title on Friday night. But to get there they’ll have to defeat one of the top teams in the state in the East Central Cardinals.
The Cardinals come in to tonight’s game with a 7-1 record with a lone defeat against top-ranked Tulsa Washington. Since then East Central has reeled off five straight wins, outscoring opponents 213-28 along the way and posting three shutouts. Their closest win so far in district play was a 24-21 win over Coweta in week five. The Tigers defeated Grove 18-15 the following week.
Since then East Central has feasted on the weaker teams in the district, allowing a total of seven points in wins over Tulsa Central, Pryor and Tahlequah.
The Cardinals boast a balanced offensive attack led by quarterback John McDavid. McDavid has completed 55 percent of his passes on the year, amassing 1,308 yards and 16 touchdowns along the way. McDavid’s favorite targets have been a pair of big-play receivers. Dino Teague leads East Central with 25 receptions for 473 yards and eight touchdowns, while Stanvon Taylor is averaging 24 yards per catch.
The hard running of Daunte Berge provides the Cardinals with power. Berge has 652 yards rushing and four touchdowns this season.
Defensively the Cardinals boast a pair of college prospects at linebacker in Jevonta Cross, who leads the team with 104 tackles, and Marcus Dees, who has 97.
The Ridgerunners will counter with their own pair of outstanding linebackers in Bobby Harris and Trent Phillips. Harris leads Grove with 103 tackles while Phillips has 91.
Grove also has its own power running game led by senior Buck Maples. Maples has 810 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing most of the Coweta game due to injury. Maples rushed for 104 yards last week, the fourth time this season he has been over 100 yards.
A win by the Cardinals tonight will almost certainly clinch the district title for East Central, while Grove would almost certainly finish in third place and facing the prospect of going on the road in the first round of the playoffs.
A win by the Ridgerunners will create a three-way tie at the top with Coweta. With each team 1-1 against the other two, that scenario would cause the district title to be decided by tiebreaker points. Currently the Cardinals lead that category with 63 points, while Coweta has 45 and Grove 42.
The Cardinals and the Ridgerunners will kick off at 7:30 tonight at Ridgerunner Stadium.