WARR ACRES — Putnam City's young defense made all the big plays during the first half against Sapulpa.
But the youthful Pirates failed to do so when it mattered most, surrendering 14 unanswered points in the second half and falling 17-7 to the Chieftains on Thursday night at Putnam City Stadium.
“They're a quality, senior-laden team and we're starting a lot of sophomores,” Putnam City coach John Wofford said. “We had some of our young kids make mistakes late in the game, in the secondary especially. We've just got to get better.”
Sapulpa (4-0 overall, 1-0 District 6A-2) came into the game averaging 50 points per game, but it was held in check until the final play of the third quarter when Austin Smith found receiver Ben Johnson for a 20-yard touchdown on a halfback pass to put the Chieftains up 10-7.
The go-ahead score was set up by a 28-yard connection between Johnson and senior quarterback Sam Gottsch. The two hooked up six times, including a 7-yard touchdown to put Sapulpa up 10 with 5:30 remaining.
“Maybe it was just the long bus ride or something,” said Sam Gottsch of the Chieftains' slow start. “But we knew in the second half if we kept pressing something good was going to happen.
“I know I can just throw it up to him (Johnson), and he can catch anything. It's very comforting to have a guy like that.”
Putnam City (2-2, 0-1) struggled to defend Johnson all night. The 6-foot-5 senior had seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were trying to stop a (6-foot-5) receiver with a (5-foot-5) safety,” Wofford said. “That made for a rough night for some of our guys.”
Sapulpa, which is 4-0 for the first time since 2005, will host top-ranked Jenks next week in a suddenly big district game.
“This type of start doesn't happen very often around here, so I'm pretty excited,” said Sapulpa coach Mike Gottsch. “We scheduled Jenks for homecoming, and that shows the level of confidence I really have in our senior group. They've been right at the top of (Class 6A) for a long time, so it'll be fun.”
Offensively, Putnam City was led by running back JaVone Knox and receiver Davion Wisby. The seniors accounted for 218 of the Pirates 294 total yards. Knox had 20 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown, while Wisby had 10 receptions for 125 yards.
“It's about keeping our composure in tough situations,” Wofford said. “Sometimes those young kids get a little tight when it's late in close games. We've just got to work at that and overall get better at what we do.”
Putnam City will play at Tulsa Edison next week.