David Reeder

Grove Sun

COLCORD - Overcoming freezing temperatures, a slightly sloppy field and a very good Washington Warrior squad, the Colcord Hornets punched their ticket to the Class 2A Final Four with a hard fought 48-36 victory at Hornet Stadium Friday night. Despite a lackluster first half and a pair of 100-yard Warrior rushing performances, the Hornets rode the back of gifted quarterback Canaan Sherrell’s seven touchdowns (three by air to go with four on the ground) and a strong defensive second half to frustrate their opposition.

Colcord received the opening kick and put together a drive that appeared to run dry near midfield. But that was when Sherrell (9 of 14 for 244 yards) found sophomore Zach Riley racing down the visitor’s sideline. Riley, who’d managed to get between a pair of Washington receivers, made a spectacular catch and raced to the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown reception. The PAT kick failed for the 6-0 score.

The Warriors got a good runback on the ensuing kickoff to near the 40 and their offense went to work. Staying almost exclusively on the ground, Washington moved the chains twice to march to the Hornet 43. On his lone carry of the contest fullback Robert Rhynes scooted 17 yards to the 26. That was where Warrior running back Zeke Zimmer (15 carries for 118 yards) sprinted the rest of the way for the first of his pair of touchdowns. With 5:44 remaining in the first, Rhynes gave his team a 7-6 edge with a successful PAT.

Colcord was able to move the sticks once on their next offensive series, but some stingy defense forced a punt. The visitor’s offense set up shop on their 33 and promptly picked up a pair of first downs while crossing into Hornet territory. A 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Colcord nine, while the opening period came to a conclusion. And on the second snap of the second stanza, quarterbck Dakota Treat (12 touches for 94 yards) called his own number from a yard out to score his first of two on the night. Rhynes added his second of a perfect four-for-four PAT tries and the 14-6 lead.

Just when it looked like the Warriors might be in control, Sherrell connected with his favorite receiver, senior Rusty James, on a slant across the middle. James did the rest, racing the remaining 50 yards for a 70-yard touchdown. With 9:39 to play in the half, Sherrell found Darwin Davis for a two-point conversion pass and the 14-14 deadlock.

Washington went back on top on their next possession when they needed only a half dozen snaps and a pair of Zimmer runs for 34 and 22 yards to get to the Hornet one. Zimmer gave his team the lead with a one-yard plunge.

Colcord burned most of the remaining second period clock with an 11-play drive that fizzled deep in the Warrior ‘red zone’ where they relinquished the ball on downs. With under two minutes to play, Washington marched across midfield with a another pair of Zimmer carries and eventually found themselves on the Hornet 19. With time running out in the half, the Warriors lined up for a 29-yard field goal try by Rhynes. A big Colcord rush got a hand on the kick, where Sherrell picked it up on his own 10 and outran the entire defense for an incredible 90-yard scoring scamper. The PAT try was no good, but momentum had clearly jumped to the home team, as the Hornets trailed by one at the break.

With the onset of the second half, the Hornet defense adjusted to a four man front. And after an 11-play drive it seemed that Colcord had gotten their first stop of the night. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept the visitor’s drive alive. On the heels of the major flag, Treat carried the ball to pay dirt from five yards away. Rhyne’s PAT gave his team a 28-20 advantage.

But that was where the Hornets took control of the game. On the first snap of the possession Sherrell faked the handoff and tucked it away to his left. After getting a step ahead of the secondary, the fleet-footed signal caller raced 70 yards for the score. With a two point pass to James, Sherrell and company tied the affair and in truth never looked back.

The Colcord ’blackshirts’ answered by forcing their guests to punt for the first time in the game. Despite a flag that backed them up inside their own 20, Sherrell and James teamed up for a 19-yard reception to the 37. That was where Sherrell did it again, breaking through the initial rush and racing 63 yards to glory. James’s PAT was true for the 35-28 lead as the Hornets exerted their dominance .

A holding penalty negated a 47-yard Zimmer to Rhynes pass on the opening snap of the final frame. A subsequent Warrior pass attempt was intercepted by Riley to give his team the ball on the enemy 44. A 37-yard Sherrell to James (4 catches for 136 yards) pass put the ball inside the Washington 10. Three snaps later from the one-yard line, Sherrell called his own number to extend the Hornet lead. The PAT failed, but Colcord was ahead by 13.

After an exchange of possessions, the Warriors were forced to the air. And again, the Hornet defense gave the ball to their offense on downs. Sherrell put things away for good when he threw a 10-yard TD pass to Riley. James’s kick was good for the 20-point lead. With under two minutes left in the game, Washington’s Steven Howard scored a nine-yard touchdown and two-point conversion. The onside kick that followed was covered by Colcord freshman Sam Salinas, where the Hornets went into the victory formation to burn the rest of the clock for the 48-36 final score. Tommy Pack led the home town defense with 10 stops on the night

“It feels great,” Sherrell said afterwards. “We’ve got a lot of heart on this team and we just fight for as long as we can.”

“It’s a great time to be a part of this program,” Simmons said. “Credit our defensive coaches. They made some great adjustments at halftime and that slowed them down a lot. They were outflanking us on the counter option and the trap and we adjusted to where we were outflanking them. We got the stops when we needed to.”

The victorious Hornets will take on the Davis Wolves at Bixby High School on Saturday at one p.m. for the right to advance to the state’s title match.