POTTSBORO — The one person inside chilly Jim Henderson Memorial Stadium who may have been the least surprised by Pottsboro’s emphatic blowout of Lone Oak was probably Cardinals head coach Matt Poe himself.
“We played to our potential tonight,” Poe said after Friday night’s rout. “We knew our kids could play and they played the way they’re capable of playing. I’m so proud of them and I’m proud of our seniors. It’s a special moment for them.”
The expected showdown for seeding in District 5-3A (I) instead turned into a Senior Night showcase for the Cardinals, who scored on their first seven touches of the first half and steamrolled the Buffaloes, 61-14, for their first home victory of the season.
“It’s great to get this last win in our last game,” said senior running back Will Cates, who finished with 180 yards and four touchdown runs on only 12 carries. “Our O-line was smart and we knew who to block.”
Added senior quarterback Dylan Kulbeth, who added 150 yards and a rushing TD: “That bye week really helped us out a lot. We went out there and got energized, and stuck to the fundamentals. The coaches just implied that we’re going to stick to what we do best. We’re not going to change our whole scheme. It’s smashmouth football, over and over.”
The Cardinals (6-4, 4-2) will face Malakoff in the bi-district round of the Class 3A Division I playoffs on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mesquite’s Hanby Stadium. Lone Oak (5-5, 3-3), meanwhile, will face Kemp.
Pottsboro’s offense stampeded to the tune of 407 yards on the ground, including all nine of their touchdowns, and 548 total yards. The Cardinals didn’t commit any turnovers and never were forced to punt.
“Our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, and we were moving the line of scrimmage and moving them back,” Poe said. “Those guys have done a great job all year and man, tonight they really stood out.”
Wildcat specialist Cy Shope scored all three times he touched the ball in the red zone; and Zach Talley added a TD run to round out Pottsboro’s total. Kulbeth was an efficient 9-of-12 through the air for 141 yards, and Luke Miller caught five of Kulbeth’s aerials for 93 yards.
Pottsboro’s defense, meanwhile, put the clamps on Lone Oak standout quarterback Quaid Williams. The junior dual threat finished with 231 passing yards, completing 14 of 27 attempts with a touchdown, but was held to just six rushing yards as the Buffaloes as a team managed just 38 yards on the ground.
“To hold a team like that to 14 points is a great accomplishment,” Poe said.
Other than a couple of missed extra-point kicks, the night went almost as well as could be expected for the Cardinals on special teams as well. The Cards recovered two muffed kickoffs, converting each into points, and sniffed out a Lone Oak fake punt attempt in the first quarter that denied the Buffaloes any chance to gain traction.
After Jasek Hooker’s recovery of the second-half kickoff led to Cates’ fourth and final TD to make it 54-14, the clock ran continuously for the rest of the game.
Respecting the Cardinals’ ground game, the Buffaloes crowded the box, often bringing all 11 men forward — and Pottsboro made them pay a few times. To start the game, Cates twice broke through the first line of defense and into the open, staking Pottsboro to a 13-0 lead with less than five minutes elapsed.
“We saw that last week when they played Rains,” Poe said. “It was the first time all year that we saw it. We didn’t really work on it a whole lot, but we thought they could do it. Credit to our kids to adjust and get things rolling.”
Pottsboro led 19-0 after one quarter following Shope’s first scoring run, and Shope tacked on a second one on the first play of the second quarter.
After Lone Oak got on the scoreboard on Ethan Smith’s 2-yard plunge, the Cards scored back-to-back TDs on a 49-yard Kulbeth run, a Riley Deaton recovery of the ensuing kick, and a one-yard plunge by Cates to make it 40-6.
Shope tacked on his third TD before Williams led the Buffaloes on a quick drive with seconds to go before halftime, passing to Jack Kizer from 33 yards out to make the score 47-14 — but the first home win of the year was in the bag for a Pottsboro team that was 5-0 on the road but had faced its toughest foes at home.
“I think we all had this mindset that we really needed to get this win for our hometown because we hadn’t got a win (at home) all year,” Cates said. “We put 100 percent in everything — every single snap, every single play.”