GUNTER — At halftime of Gunter’s game against City View Friday, the Tigers found themselves in an unfamiliar position— losing.
Gunter was having trouble running the football. Its defense was giving up too many big plays, surrendering 27 straight points. Down 13, the coaching staff made a series of defensive adjustments, aimed at stopping City View’s passing game.
Those adjustments proved to be crucial in Gunter’s 31-27 win in District 5-3A (II) action as the Tigers shut out City View in the second half to clinch a playoff spot and gain sole possession of first place.
“I’m just really proud of our guys and the way we played,” Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. “I wouldn’t put it on the coaches or schematics, I think our kids just did a really good job in the second half of upping their level of play.”
After two quick scores put Gunter (7-1, 4-0) on top 14-0 less than five minutes into the game on touchdown runs by Hudson Graham and Ethan Sloan, City View (5-2, 2-1) began to have success moving the ball. Quarterback Isaiah Marks hooked up with his brother, Jayln five times for 126 yards. Two of his catches were touchdowns, while another one went for 78 yards and set up City View’s first score of the game. At the half, the Mustangs led 27-14.
“[Marks] was really hurting us bad,” Fieszel said. “We talked about it and tweaked a few things and tried to take away what they were doing.”
Instead of playing their usual defensive scheme, a formation with four down linemen, the Tigers switched to a three-man front on passing downs. Doing so allowed them to add a defensive back to drop into coverage.
Their plan worked. Isaiah Marks, who was 9-of-13 passing for 170 yards in the first half, completed just 2-of-10 second-half throws. Jayln Marks caught one of those passes for eleven yards.
“We hadn’t seen a three-man front from them on any film that we’d watched,” City View head coach Rudy Hawkins said. “That was something new that they did and moving from even to odd there messed with us a little bit.”
In the first half, the Tigers had trouble running the football consistently After the team’s first two drives, Gunter punted three times and attempted a fake punt that came up short. Clayton Reed led the team with 13 carries for 67 yards.
So, when the Tigers came out in the second half, they went to the air to pull off the comeback.
Logan Hubbard’s 32-yard field goal in the middle of the third quarter pulled Gunter within 10 points.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Graham faked a hand-off and rolled out, throwing the ball to Peyton Lowe, who caught the ball in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown which cut City View’s lead to 27-24.
Two minutes later, Gunter ran the same play and Graham found Lowe in the end zone for a 31-yard score that gave Gunter the lead for good.
“We thought we had to get the ball on the perimeter a little bit more,” Fieszel said. “Our offensive coordinator did a good job of that and deserves a lot of credit.”
City View marched down the field, aided by penalties, but couldn’t get past the 31-yard line as Isaiah Mark’s pass was too long for receiver Darion Harbuck when the Mustangs were trying to re-take the lead.
Gunter has the district bye this week to rest up before playing at Henrietta, which takes on City View Friday. If Henrietta wins, it will set up a battle for the top seed for the playoffs.
“We’re going into the bye week so we need to focus on us and make sure we are taking care of us,” Fieszel said. “We are sitting in a good spot right now and we just have to focus on getting better in the bye week.”