The Grove Ridgerunners have had a comeback season.
After losses to Wagoner (49-10), Catoosa (18-17) and Bristow (45-16) all in a row, Grove rallied and defeated Cleveland (20-14), Oologah (42-35) and McLain (34-6) to make an appearance at the 4A playoffs. This was the Ridgerunners' first appearance at the dance in nine years, since the 2010 team who was ousted in the first round by the McAlester Buffaloes.
Grove's Head Coach, Ron Culwell, was aiming for more than just an appearance, but a defensive battle and offensive struggles against the eighth-ranked Sallisaw Black Diamonds would unfortunately end the Ridgerunners' season.
Sallisaw 9, Grove 7
The first half of the game was almost a shutout for both teams. As time expired on the second quarter, Sallisaw's Dylan Upton made a 34-yard field goal to score the first points of the game. This gave the Black Diamonds a 3-0 lead.
Mid-way through the third quarter, Sallisaw would score again. Only this time it was a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jace Nicholson to Jaxon McTyre. The two point conversion failed and Sallisaw was left with a 9-0 lead.
17 seconds later Grove's Emmanuel Crawford would break free, rushing 55-yards for a touchdown. Nick Allsup's kick was good and the Ridgerunners were back in the game, trailing 9-7.
A scoreless fourth quarter frustrated both teams and the Black Diamonds would move on to the second round, leaving Grove with a 5-6 record for the year.
"We played really hard. It was just one of those games where defense dominated and they made one more play than us. [I] am really proud of the way we battled," said Culwell.
Throughout the season the Ridgerunners have had their ups and downs, but Culwell says that the team had gotten into a groove with one game in particular.
"I felt like we found our identity during the Cleveland game and carried it the rest of the way [through the season]. We had great senior leadership. That is always a blessing," said Culwell. "We lost a couple that we shouldn't have. We can't change that, but we can make it a point not to make the same the same mistake again."
Although losing senior leadership, the 2020 season looks bright.
"Next year we have a lot of guys back. It will depend on our chemistry, our work ethic and again, leadership. They already know that it could be a special year, now they have to make it happen," said Culwell.
The Grove Sun thanks you for a great season Ridgerunners, we are already looking forward to the next one!