McALESTER — In a game decided on fourth-and-1, Poteau gained a yard, Douglass didn’t.
Poteau’s Jace Pitchford scored the go-ahead touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 2:26 left, and moments later, he tackled Douglass’ Deondre Clark short of the first down on fourth-and-1 to seal a 27-20 Poteau victory in the Class 4A state semifinals Saturday at McAlester High School.
“If you’re gonna go this far in the football season, you’ve got to have a difference-maker,” Poteau coach Greg Werner said. “He’s our difference-maker. He’s an incredible football player, but even more, he’s an incredible competitor.
“When we were down there on the goal line, it was easy — Jace was gonna carry the ball.”
Third-ranked Douglass, haunted by penalties all day, outgained the No. 6 Pirates 336-257. Clark had 193 yards and a touchdown on 29 rushes, but also had three TDs wiped out by penalty. The Trojans had 110 yards in penalties, more than double Poteau’s penalty yardage.
“We didn’t make the plays when we had the opportunity to make them,” Douglass coach Willis Alexander said. “I’m disappointed for the kids. Those were two good teams competing at a high level. I’m disappointed the kids didn’t get to decide it. The referees were a big part of the game with some calls that were momentum killers.
“Yeah, we still had opportunities to make plays, but our momentum was broken. There’s no way that a state semifinal team should have that many more penalties than the other. We’re not that poorly coached.”
Poteau’s offense limited Douglass’ second-half opportunities with its ball-control game plan. Douglass ran only 18 plays for 66 total yards in the second half. Thirteen of the Trojans’ 16 first downs came before halftime.