By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
For the first time since 1966, the Sand Springs Sandites are headed to the state championship after a 30-23 come-from-behind win over the #1 previously undefeated Booker T Washington Hornets.
It was a rough start to the game as the Hornets complete a 14 play, 61 yard drive that consumed more than half the clock to emerge at a 7-0 lead off a 1-yard QB Keeper by Dakari Willis with 5:00 left in the first.
It looked like the Sandites were ready for a major offensive explosion as Lane Lettich rushed 70 yards on the opening play of the drive to give Sand Springs first and goal at the Hornet 7.
Unfortunately for the underdogs, a strong defensive rally pushed them back to fourth and 8 and they had to settle for a 25 yard field goal by junior Kasey Bales.
The Hornets came right back for another touchdown drive, most of the gains made by Oklahoma State-commit Justice Hill, and capped it off with a 13 yard keeper.
A daunting 14-3 score with 7.5 seconds left in the first looked like the Hornets might run away with this game, especially after the next Sandite drive fell flat. Bales was forced to punt into a headwind and the Hornets ended up with great field position at the Hornet 38 yard-line.
Once again the Hornets were off to a bold start, driving to the 25 before the infamous Sandite secondary put up a fourth and 2 stop thanks to Delvin Jordan and Cole Dixon combining for a tackle on Willis.
The Defense had found their feet, but the Offense was still stumbling, getting pushed back to fourth and 14 and had to punt once again.
They wouldn’t get to rest for long, however. Two plays into the corresponding Booker T drive, Jaxon Starling collided with Hill to knock the ball loose where it was recovered by Jordan.
Three plays later, Hunter Greathouse connected with Bales for a 58 yard touchdown pass, then the all-purpose Bales kicked his own PAT and followed it up with a 40 yard kickoff.
The Hornets’ Zach Haney sent home a 33 yard field goal for a 16-10 advantage, but the Sandites had found their momentum.
Booker T was looking to maintain their lead, however, and drove 51 yards for another Willis touchdown and a 23-10 lead mid-way through the third.
Finally, it was Sand Springs’s time to shine. After getting pushed back to third and 22, Greathouse connected with Bales for fourth and short. The quarterback piled behind his sturdy O-line and kept the drive alive.
A pass interference call against the Hornets gave Sand Springs another first down, then it was time for some trick plays. Trace Fleischman reversed a lateral back to Greathouse who launched it downfield to Lettich for first and goal at the 2.
The O-line piled Greathouse in to narrow the score to 23-16, but Bales’s PAT was blocked.
Sand Springs took possession once again toward the top of the fourth, then Payton Scott pulled out all the stops, dragging a defender 10 yards for a 27 yard rush.
A series of pass interference calls on Booker T helped Sand Springs reach the 14 where Lettich scored and Bales kicked the PAT to tie the game.
The corresponding kickoff was fumbled and recovered by Sand Springs at the Hornet 24, but the challengers failed to capitalize on it as a 32 yard field goal attempt fell short.
The Hornets were equally incapable of moving the ball and Sand Springs got the punt in Hornet territory.
This time, the Sandites wouldn’t fail. Lettich picked up an 18 yard rush, then Greathouse connected with Fleischman for 22. On fourth and 1, Greathouse was once again piled into the endzone and for the first time since week 9, the Sandites led the Hornets.
Bales sent the kickoff deep into Hornet territory and Dixon stopped the return at the Hornet 19. Booker T was resilient, however, and drove to the Sandite 40.
In Hollywood fashion, Malachi Walton picked off a 30 yard pass attempt that could have forced overtime to end the game.
It was the perfect ending to a glorious night that will go down in the Sandite history books as the biggest game in 49 years.
Sand Springs won't know their opponent till Bixby and Bartlesville battle it out Saturday at 1pm at Owasso High School.