BLANCHARD — With the District 3A-1 championship on the line against rival Tuttle, Blanchard's senior leaders stepped up.
Running back Braden Stringer rushed for 271 yards and four touchdowns, and defensive back Braden Bush came up with a game-clinching interception as top-ranked Blanchard held on for a 35-28 victory.
However, Bush nearly wasn't the hero he turned out to be. With just over a minute remaining and Tuttle driving at the Blanchard 37-yard line, a receiver came open behind the defense for what would have been a game-tying score.
But as Tuttle quarterback Jett Jobe's pass hung in the air, Bush recovered to make the interception just outside the goal line and seal the win.
“They were running the ball a lot and then when they finally passed we had a little bit of busted coverage,” Bush said. “We were peaking in the backfield some, and all the sudden I see a guy getting open deep. I thought ‘oh, man this is going to be a bad deal.' I knew I had to do something so I just went and made a play.”
Blanchard coach Jeff Craig was happy to get the win, but unhappy with how his team played overall.
The Lions had three turnovers, 14 penalties, and surrendered nine points on special teams plays.
“It's always nice to get a win against a rival and get a district championship on top of that,” Craig said. “There's a lot of plusses to winning this game that I'm trying to enjoy instead of looking at how bad we played. We've focused on fixing the turnovers and penalties for a few weeks now. We've gotta quit saying it, and start doing it. Our guys were resilient enough to come through, and that's what counts.”
A pair of Blanchard fumbles gave Tuttle the ball inside the Lions' 30-yard line on consecutive first-quarter drives. The Tigers took advantage of the good field position with a Ty Stonebraker 38-yard field goal followed by a Jesse Gregory 18-yard touchdown run to take a 10-0 lead.
Stringer responded for Blanchard in a big way, rushing for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries in the first half as the Lions took a 28-20 lead after two quarters.
“This being senior night, at our field, and for the district title — it feels great to have a big game,” Stringer said. “This was about the team sticking together and finding a way to pull it out.”
Blanchard (9-0, 6-0 in District 3A-1) now moves on to host a playoff game next week as the Lions look to defend their state title. Tuttle (7-3, 4-2) must go on the road to begin the playoffs as the district's third-place team.