COMMERCE — Commerce Tigers defensive back Trevor Browning intercepted an errant Hunter Harris pass with 46 seconds left in the game Thursday night to preserve a 31-28 victory over the Cougars of Oklahoma Union.
With the victory, Commerce remains tied with Adair in District 2A-8 with a perfect 4-0 record. Both teams are 6-2 overall. The Cougars are 1-3 in the district and 3-5 overall.
Commerce concludes the road portion of the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at Nowata. The Ironmen are 0-4 in the district and 0-8 on the year.
Maintaining the three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Commerce consumed more than six minutes on the game clock to drive from their own 9-yard line to the OU 26.
After the drive stalled, punter Hayden Moss unleashed a 46-yard kick to the Cougars 26 with 6:42 remaining in the game.
Oklahoma Union used a potent ground game led by the tandem of Casey Armstrong and Joey Russ to move to the Commerce 28-yard line at 2:42.
Harris attempted to connect with Armstrong on a crossing route, but Browning stepped in front of the pass and thwarted the Cougar comeback. The pass was one of only two thrown by Harris the entire game.
The other was a 13-yard completion to wide out Dalton Hahn in the first quarter.
“We came out and jumped into our no-huddle some, but when we needed a first down, our pound-and-ground philosophy produced,” Commerce head coach Steve Moss said. “We moved the ball well all night, but a couple of times we should have had touchdowns that would have put the game out of reach.
“Especially on our last drive,” Steve Moss said. “Hayden just overthrew the ball a bit and it went off the receiver’s finger tips. That would have made it 38-28, but in the end it really didn’t matter.”
Setting the pace of the game was a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play by Cougar Seth Long. The two-point conversion run was stuffed for a 6-0 Oklahoma Union lead with 11:46 left in the first quarter.
“Coach (Jack) Kelley had a good game plan going into the game,” coach Moss said. “But, a lot of people don’t realize Oklahoma Union had an open date last week to prepare for us.
“So coach Kelley and the staff made some defensive adjustments in the middle of the game and they only scored eight points the whole second half,” coach Moss said. “While they had two weeks to get ready for us, we only had four days after the Wyandotte game.”
Commerce failed to move the ball on a three-and-out first possession, as the Cougars took over at their own 24-yard line.
Armstrong, a 6-3, 205-pound senior, ran straight up the middle on a 76-yard touchdown run with 7:18 showing on the clock. Mason Pitman added the two-point conversion run for a 14-0 Cougar lead.
Not to be outdone, Commerce return specialist Hunter Burkybile took the ensuing kickoff and broke loose for a 65-yard TD run. The PAT by Hayden Moss created a 14-7 Commerce deficit with 7:08 remaining in the opening quarter.
Oklahoma Union needed eight plays to cover 76 yards on their next possession to increase their lead.
Russ concluded the drive with a grueling 24-yard touchdown run off tackle with 1:12 left. The TD play came on a fourth-and-11 call before Russ was stopped short on the two-point conversion run.
The Commerce offense did not gain their initial first down until Chris Ibarra ran for 17 yards with 30 seconds until the end of the opening quarter.
Mounting a sustained 64-yard drive in nine plays, the Tigers received a 23-yard field goal by Hayden Moss with 5:20 remaining until intermission. Key play during the drive was a 21-yard pass from Moss to Ibarra.
Following a solid defensive stand by the Tigers, Hayden Moss guided Commerce 55 yards in six plays for a touchdown.
A 35-yard run by junior Ryan Dunbar created a first-and-goal situation at the OU 7-yard line.
Ibarra plowed straight up the middle with 2:45 on the clock for a touchdown. Hayden Moss kicked the point-after for a 20-17 halftime deficit for Commerce.
Taking the second half kickoff, Commerce had a 31-yard touchdown run by Ibarra wiped out by a holding penalty.
But one minute later, Ibarra made his presence known with a 4-yard TD run at the 10:05 point in the third quarter. Hayden Moss added the extra point for a 24-20 Tigers lead.
Ibarra’s run was set-up by a 50-yard pass from Hayden Moss to wide receiver Lupe Prado.
Unleashing their own version of pound-and-ground, the Cougars marched 64 yards in eight plays to regain the lead. Russ scored from 13 yards out and tacked on the two-point conversion run for a 28-24 Oklahoma Union margin with 6:55 left in the third quarter.
Commerce reciprocated 12 seconds later as Ibarra electrified the hometown crowd with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Hayden Moss kicked the point-after with 6:43 showing on the clock for a 31-28 Commerce advantage.
“Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well,” coach Moss said. “We only punted the ball twice all night and didn’t have any quarterback sacks.”
Ibarra led the Tigers with 61 yards on 15 carries and two TDs. Dunbar contributed 49 yards on eight carries as Commerce rushed for 129 yards on 29 carries.
Hayden Moss completed 12 of 17 passes for 184 yards and no turnovers.
Prado led the Tigers receiving corps with four catches for 87 yards while Browning contributed four receptions for 46 yards. Ibarra made two catches for 43 yards.
Amassing 348 yards on 68 carries, Armstrong rushed for 242 yards on 40 attempts while Russ gained 142 yards on 26 carries.