OWASSO — Unable to slow down the running of senior quarterback Zaven Collins, second-ranked Afton Eagles lost a 43-15 decision Friday night to No. 1 Hominy Bucks in a Class A semifinal game at Owasso Stadium.
“Hominy is a very good football team,” Afton head coach Zach Gardner said. “This was more like a state championship game for us than it was a semifinal game because of the crowd and the atmosphere.
“I was really impressed with the things that (Zaven) Collins was able to do, especially at safety on defense,” Gardner said. “He would be 15 yards off the ball and was still able to make the tackle at times for a short 2-yard game.
“He covered a lot of ground,” Gardner said. “Then, he would make the take in a physical way.”
Collins, a 6-4, 228-pound senior, has already committed to the University of Tulsa.
As the Bucks (13-0) starting quarterback, Collins rushed for 223 yards on 24 carries while scoring on runs of 10, 1, 6 and 13 yards.
He also completed 3 of 4 passes for 42 yards without an interception.
After holding Afton (12-1) to a three-and-out on the opening possession, the Bucks drove 61 yards in eight plays to start the scoring.
Halfback Tanner McElyea concluded the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run at 6:45 of the first quarter. Sergio Mendez kicked the point-after for a 7-0 Hominy lead.
Afton wasted little time answering as junior quarterback Wil Amos found junior wide receiver Briar Julian open for a 57-yard TD pass on the first play of its second series.
Eagle inside receiver Gabe Mustain was tackled short of the goal line on the two-point conversion run at the 6:37 mark for a 7-6 deficit.
Taking advantage of a size difference along the offensive front, Collins unleashed runs of 57, 10 and 2 yards during a 71-yard drive.
Circling left end on the ninth play of the drive, Collins scored on a 10-yard run with 4:52 remaining in the first quarter. Mendez kicked the PAT for a 14-6 margin.
Once again the Eagles countered the score by Hominy as senior kick returner Gunner Hudson took the ensuing kickoff and raced 81 yards for a TD.
Mustain’s two-point conversion run was denied as the Eagles trailed 14-12 with 4:36 showing on the clock.
A motion penalty on McElyea erased a 4-yard TD run by Collins on Hominy’s next possession with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
Afton’s defense stiffened at the start of the second quarter and denied Collins entry into the endzone on a fourth-and-goal call from the Eagles 4-yard line.
Consuming more than seven minutes on the game clock, the Eagles marched to the Hominy 8-yard line before the drive stalled on the eighth play.
Mustain nailed a 25-yard field goal attempt with 4:27 until halftime as the Eagles took their only lead on the game.
The Bucks consumed more than three minutes by covering 63 yards in eight plays on their next possession.
After runs of 9, 8, 4 and 3 yards by Collins sandwiched around a run of 29 yards by Coly Wilson and a 10-yard pass to Mendez, Collins crossed the goal line on a 1-yard plunge.
Mendez missed the extra point with 59 seconds left as Hominy carried a 20-15 lead to the locker room.
“We had a couple of scoring opportunities in the first two quarters to put points on the board and we didn’t convert,” Gardner said. “Then, in the second half we’re playing to win and we recover the opening onsides kick, but we have a four-and-out series and didn’t move the football.
“If I had it to do all over again I probably would have quick kicked in that situation,” Gardner said. “But, not to their return guy Wilson, because he’s extremely fast and very dangerous.
“I thought we had momentum coming out of the locker room after the half,” Gardner said. “But we started playing to stay close, rather than to win.”
Unable to earn a first down at their own 46-yard line, the Eagles surrendered the ball and Hominy used a nine-play methodical series to score.
Aided by a 23-yard pass from Collins to wide out Kolton Reed and three runs for 28 yards by McElyea, the Bucks scored on an 18-yard counter play run by McElyea with 5:04 left in the third quarter.
Collins tacked on the two-point conversion run for a 28-15 Hominy advantage.
Two time-consuming drives by Hominy chewed up most of the 12-minute fourth quarter.
Ignited by runs of 38 and 29 yards by Collins, the Bucks covered 94 yards over four minutes before the quarterback scored on a 6-yard run. The senior added the two-point conversion run with 8:35 left in the game for a 36-15 Hominy cushion.
Another methodical old-school drive by the Bucks covered 64 yards in nine plays before Collins scored on a 13-yard run. Mendez kicked the extra point at the 2:48 mark to conclude the scoring.
“I thought the game got away from us there at the end,” Gardner said. “The score is pretty deceiving as far as we didn’t get beat as bad as the scoreboard showed,” Gardner said. “They were the better football team.
“Out of 16 Class A teams in the playoffs, I feel like we’re the runners-up,” Gardner said. “I think Hominy will take care of business next week against Wynnewood.
“Our kids went out and controlled what they could,” Gardner said. “With football being a momentum-driven sport it could have been a lot closer than it was.”
Afton’s balanced offense produced 155 yards on 37 carries on the ground and 160 yards via the pass.
Amos gained 66 yards on 18 carries while Hudson produced 60 yards on 18 attempts and Mitchell added a 29-yard carry for the Eagles ground game.
Through the air, Amos completed 7 of 14 passes for 160 yards without an interception. Hudson misfired on a pass to Briar Julian.
Hominy amassed 409 yards on 50 carries while adding 42 yards via the pass.
Eagles’ freshman linebacker Cole Mikesell created the only turnover by either team after recovering the fumbled kickoff to start the third quarter.
“I’m proud of our kids, I’m proud of our town and community that supported us all season long,” Gardner said. “Like I’ve said before ‘God put us in this situation and out of 56 teams for us to be one of the top four is quite an accomplishment.
“It wasn’t the story-book ending we wanted,” Gardner said. “But it’s something for us to hold our heads high over.”