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.
After Douglass scored on a quarterback sneak by Patrick McKaufman to tie the game with 10:16 left, Pitchford guided the Pirates on a 15-play drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. He converted a fourth-and-1 from the Douglass 11, and four plays later, dove in on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line for the winning TD.
As a defensive back, Pitchford intercepted the only Douglass pass attempt of the second half, and six plays later, he put the Pirates up 20-14 with a touchdown pass on a hook-and-lateral in which Kendrick Hardaway took a pitch from Jarrett Lowrimore for a 37-yard score.
Roger Barcheers led Poteau with 114 yards on 16 carries, including a 51-yard touchdown. Pitchford added 72 yards on 21 carries, while throwing for 78 yards on 5-of-7 passing.
Douglass concludes the season at 11-2, while Poteau (12-1) advances to the 4A title game against undefeated and top-ranked Anadarko Friday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
“We’ve worked hard and we’ve earned this,” Pitchford said. “And we’re not done.”