SAPULPA — Bryan Dutton was intercepted late in the first half, and six plays later his Guthrie team was down by 11 points to unbeaten McAlester in the Class 5A semifinals.
On the next drive, Dutton put his team — and its state championship hopes — on his back, running for 67 tough yards as the Bluejays cut their deficit to five before halftime and went on to a 28-25 win Saturday at Collins Field.
“I did the best I could to carry the team,” Dutton said.
The junior quarterback came through time and again in clutch moments Saturday for unbeaten Guthrie, which clinched a spot in Friday's Class 5A state championship game against Lawton MacArthur at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
“Dutton's just a competitor,” said senior running back Luke Davis. “That's how he is. He's got mental toughness and that's what it's all about.”
Mental toughness was exactly what Dutton needed after the interception. McAlester had seized all the momentum, and Guthrie was driving into intense wind.
“He's a tough rascal,” Guthrie coach Rafe Watkins said of Dutton.
“Being around him for three years, I knew he'd be mad (after the interception).”
On run after run — some designed, some improvised — he broke tackles and found holes on his way down the field.
Dutton finished with 173 yards rushing and three total touchdowns Saturday.
And late in the fourth quarter, Dutton took on a receiver's role to clinch the win.
With Guthrie clinging to a three-point lead and facing a third-and-15 on its own 22-yard line, Bluejays offensive coordinator Scott Mick dialed up a toss pass.
Dutton pitched the ball to sophomore Kai Callins and slipped out of the backfield. Callins tossed a perfect ball into the wind, finding a wide-open Dutton for a 50-yard gain that sealed the deal.
“No one thought coach Mick would call that,” said senior lineman Blake Belcher.
“But he said, ‘I'm going to the state finals; I'm not gonna leave it hanging on the field.'”
To get to Friday's title game, No. 1 Guthrie has faced its fair share of adversity.
The Bluejays were forced to forfeit eight of their wins after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association ruled the team fielded an ineligible player.
But two days before first-round games were scheduled to be played, the OSSAA board of directors accepted Guthrie's appeal to reverse the ruling.
Watkins watched from the stands Saturday for the third game of his eight-game suspension that was part of the board's decision.
“It was worth all the fighting that we put into it,” Watkins said. “I'm just so happy for the kids. They've been through more than most people realize.”
Now, the Bluejays will play for their third state championship in Watkins' 11 years as Guthrie's coach.
“It's really incredible,” Davis said. “We've gotta come out and play our hardest.
“It's been a wild ride, but we're not finished yet.”