CUSHING – A nearly unthinkable comeback bid grew steadily Friday night as the Cushing Tigers displayed their intent to stoke a decades-old rivalry.
The Tigers lost 60-39 to the Bristow Pirates in their Class 4A debut, but not before staging a wild first-half rally. Cushing’s Keaton Crooks, a leading junior receiver, laid claim to maybe the best individual performance of the night. He was named the Red Dirt Sports Xtra MVP for his work on the edge of the offense. Crooks hauled in 12 catches for 166 yards, as well as a defensive interception, scored two touchdowns, and recorded eight tackles for the Tigers.
The action tipped heavily in Bristow’s favor almost from kickoff. On the opening drive, the Pirates’ C.J. McCall ran the ball 69 yards to the end zone on the first play and forecasted a busy first quarter. They went up 28 points before the end of the first quarter. And first-year coach Rusty Morgan got his crew busy. “Being down 28-0 almost immediately, it would have been easy to put our heads down and just give up,” Morgan said. “But that’s this group. We’re gonna battle back.”
The Tigers (0-1) scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter and dragged Bristow to the wire, threatening to tie the game with 6 seconds left in the first half, though time ran out before they could tie it. Evan Kennedy scored first with a four-yard pass from Moyer. Then Trevor Alley, making defenders miss on a 21-yard pass play. Crooks scored the next two.
“Of course, some other things didn’t go our way, but the biggest positive is the way we responded all night long,” Morgan said. “We continued to string drives together, (quarterback) Wil Moyer is throwing it around excellently, and the line protected him all night long.” With a 28-21 lead, Bristow outscored Cushing 32-18 in the second half as the Pirates racked up 601 yards of offense and punted only twice. Moyer, however, had an astounding night as he connected with Crooks and others for an impressive stat line. He completed 37 of 62 pass attempts for 476 yards and six TDs.
The longest scoring play of the night came in the form of an 85-yard pass play from Moyer to Nathan Jones, who tallied 137 yards on six catches. This was the Core Civic "Play Of The Game."
Defensively, Cushing struggled to catch Bristow’s ball carriers. The Pirates had little interest in the passing game as they tallied more than 500 rushing yards and called only nine pass plays.
“Defensively, it was not as nice as we would like it to be, but we’re gonna get better,” Morgan said.
The Tigers return to the field Friday, Sept. 7 as they travel to 3A Perkins for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
by Christian Favalora ~ RDMGtv sports journalist