CUSHING — With senior quarterback Wil Amos at the controls, the Afton Eagles punched their ticket to the Class A championship game following a 52-7 rout Friday Dec. 1, over the Thomas Terriers in front of a large crowd at Cushing High School.
Much like his father, superintendent and assistant coach Randy Gardner did as an assistant with the 1984 Picher-Cardin Gorillas, Afton head coach Zach Gardner is seeking the Eagles’ first-ever gold ball.
Picher-Cardin won the Class A title with a 23-21 victory over Fox.
The Eagles carry a perfect 13-0 record into the 7 p.m., Friday, championship game against the Crescent Tigers at Owasso High School. The 13 wins eclipsed the previous school record of 12 set last season.
Afton has an opportunity to become only the third team from northeast Oklahoma to win a state title. Along with Picher-Cardin, Welch High School captured the 1987 Class B crown.
“Did we expect that going in here? No,” Gardner said. “We knew Thomas was traditionally a good football team. Our kids showed up tonight.”
Crescent rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit to eliminate Hooker (12-2), 35-25, Friday night in the other Class A semifinal game.
Head coach J.L. Fisher’s Tigers are a perfect 14-0 on the season and are making their sixth appearance in the championship game. Crescent won the Class A title in 1990.
“We can’t be content with this,” Zach Gardner said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We need to take full advantage right now.”
Amos (6-2, 185) rushed for 353 yards on 32 carries and scored four times. He also completed 4 of 8 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown without an interception.
The 353 yards on the ground by Amos is 14th overall in state playoff history since 1944.
“I am not trying to biased, but he is hands down the Class A player of the year,” Gardner said.
Following an exchange of possessions, Afton recovered a muffed punt by Parker Jordan at the Terriers’ 6-yard line with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
Amos ran off left tackle for a 6-yard touchdown of the series. Brett Hollon caught the two-point conversion pass from Amos for an 8-0 Eagles lead at the 7:17 mark.
After the 10-time state champion Terriers (12-3) failed to gain a first down on a fourth-and-10 try by quarterback Marshall Gose, Afton used more than five minutes on the clock to cover 90 yards in nine plays.
Amos concluded the drive with a 1-yard TD plunge with just 26 seconds showing on the clock. The two-point conversion pass sailed over the receiver’s head to give the Eagles a 14-0 cushion.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Amos spotted Hollon wide open in the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown pass play. Amos was stopped on the two-point conversion run for a 20-0 Afton lead with 10:18 before halftime.
The Terriers needed nine plays to drive 68 yards for their only score of the night.
Freshman halfback Ethan Hamberlin concluded the Thomas possession with a 1-yard plunge at the 5:45 mark. Dakota Miller booted the extra point for a 20-7 deficit.
After a failed onsides kick by Thomas, the Eagles covered 47 yards in five plays to widen their lead.
Accounting for all the yards on the ground, Amos concluded the drive with another 6-yard TD run. Clay Mitchell snagged the two-point conversion pass by Amos with 4:28 until intermission.
“The kids answered up, didn’t they?” Gardner said. “We felt we stopped ourselves on two particular series on offense in the first half. We had first-and-goal at the 5 and kinda regressed from there. That’s not typical of us. We can’t do that next week, for sure.”
During the first two quarters, the Eagles defense limited the Terriers to 115 yards on 27 carries and 82 yards passing.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Eagles offense chewed up more than five minutes on an 89-yard drive in eight plays.
Senior wide out Brian Julian took a pitchout and ran 21 yards for a touchdown with 4:48 on the game clock. Amos scored the two-point conversion run for a 36-7 Afton advantage.
Following another solid defensive stand, the Eagles offense drove 58 yards in five plays for a touchdown.
Julian earned 6 yards on a carry while Amos rushed for 52 yards that included a 2-yard TD run. Julian scored the two-point conversion run at the 2:01 mark for a 44-7 Afton lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Midway through the 12-minute quarter the Eagles delivered the coup de grâce as senior fullback Zach Henry circled left end for a 7-yard TD run. Amos scored the two-point conversion run at the 6:41 juncture.
During the 57 yards, eight-play drive Henry accounted for 46 yards on six carries.
“We can follow him when they key on Wil when he’s in the backfield,” Gardner said. “He had some great carries. I would hate to tackle him. One guy can typically not bring down our backs.
“Right now, we’re hard to stop both ways,” Gardner said. “The kids are playing well, but it’s a team game and there’s not just one guy doing it all. Obviously we’re in the state championship game for a reason.”
While Afton’s ground game amassed 446 yards on 47 carries, the Eagles defense limited the Terriers to 184 yards on 44 carries. Hamberlin led the Thomas ground game with 124 yards on 25 carries. Gose contributed 46 yards on seven carries.
Gose completed 4 of 16 passes for 93 yards and two interceptions.