NORMAN — The most exciting thing that happened Friday night came before the Tigers even kicked the ball off to Moore. Senior Josh Farley’s father, who had been serving in the military overseas, surprised the senior during the pregame coin flip when he took off the mascot’s mask and revealed himself to his son.
It was a heart-tugging moment for everyone in the stadium. It was also one of the only things that went right for the Tigers in the first half, who finished with just 38 yards of offense but entered the locker room on top of the Lions thanks to a pair of big special team plays.
The Tigers didn’t fix everything in the second half, but it was a near 180-degree turnaround from the first half. They got the rushing game going and did more than enough to put away Moore, defeating the Lions 45-30 to move to 2-0 on the season.
“They’re a tough team to prepare for,” coach Greg Nation said. “And they came out ready and prepared for us. But we persevered, and our guys fought back.”
Moore jumped on NHS from the opening possession. The Lions reeled off several long runs in a row, utilizing the same type of option rushing attack that the Tigers themselves run. NHS held the Lions to a field goal on the opening possession, but things got worse from there. The Tigers tried a trick play on their first snap of the game and were stuffed in the backfield, and two plays later had squandered good starting field position.
That kept the momentum with Moore, which promptly took advantage. On third and long, quarterback Jordan Bernhardy broke an 84-yard run to put the Lions on top 10-0 over a stunned Tigers’ team.
“Our team did good tonight coming back,” said running back Dupree Young, who led the Tigers with 156 rushing yards and three touchdowns. “We got behind, and some guys got angry, but at no point did I ever think we were going to lose. Once we cooled down our anger and did what we were coached to do we were able to take control.”
Bernhardy would be a problem all night for the Tigers, even after they took control of the game in the second half. The senior finished with more than 300 yards of total offense but his game ended with a scary moment after he went down on a play with two minutes left in the game and had to be carted off the field. It was not immediately apparent what the injury was, but he was able to move his arms and legs and gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was driven off the field.
With the Tiger offense struggling in the first half, their special teams stepped up to keep them in the game. First it was Young, who returned a kickoff 90 yards to keep the Tigers in the game. Then, after NHS wasted a fumble recovery on the Moore 14 when the Tigers failed to convert a fourth-and-one, it was Kierstan Pendleton who made the next big play.
Pendleton, who was also the hero of last week’s Crosstown Clash victory after he jumpstarted the Tigers with a touchdown return on an interception, was at it again Friday night. This time he did it with a 50-yard punt return in the second quarter, giving NHS a 14-10 lead that it would never relinquish. The Tigers added a 46-yard field goal from Matt Hockett as time expired in the first half.
“To have a kick and punt return like that, and a 46-yarder by Hockett, that’s huge for us,” Nation said. “It wasn’t our best game, but a win is a win.”
Things turned around in the second half. Young took the first snap of the half 61 yards for a touchdown to extend the Tiger lead, and though Moore stuck around, the Lions never got closer than seven points again.
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