Oklahoma Class 5A football: El Reno forces six turnovers in first playoff win since 2009
EL RENO — The El Reno defense couldn’t have played a better half.
After the Indians recovered two fumbles, the opportunity presented itself again for El Reno.
Early in the second quarter, Piedmont ran the same pitch they had all year, but the ball was dropped by the running back. The El Reno defense quickly acted and multiple members jumped onto the ball to record the third consecutive fumble recovery.
"I just felt like the timing was right to do a trick play,” El Reno coach Chuck Atchison said as he felt the momentum gaining for the Indians.
Dorian Plumley tossed the ball to Kolton Hunt but instead of running up field, the senior tight-end stopped and threw a pass to Cole Mitchell who was streaking down the sideline. The two connected for the score.
The 29-yard double-pass play cemented three consecutive scoring drives off fumble recoveries for El Reno in the first half that catapulted El Reno to a big first-half lead. El Reno carried the lead to a 41-14 win over Piedmont on Friday night at Memorial Stadium. In total El Reno forced 6 turnovers, four fumbles and two interceptions.
“The big deal when you’re running a triple-option [offense], is when they pitch the ball, we want to try to make them fumble it and put it on the ground,” Atchison said. “And we were real lucky they had a few bad pitches and there were a few pitches I think he dropped because he was nervous somebody was coming at him so that was great.”
El Reno has not been out of the first round of the playoffs since 2009. Atchison believes that’s what sparked the Indians' stellar performance despite being down 12 players, including three starters due to COVID-19 implications.
Through the odds, nothing could stop El Reno from getting a revenge win on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
“We were two plays away from having a zero on the board,” Atchison said about his defense. “No matter what your talent level is, you can play great defense and so we’ve come miles. Our defense has done a fabulous job and our kids believe in our scheme and they just played great tonight. They wanted it really bad.”
Along with the four fumble recoveries, including one on special teams where Tyler Vargas recovered the fumble in the endzone, El Reno grabbed two interceptions that halted Piedmont’s comeback attempt. Brayden Girard intercepted the first pass at the 6-yard line in the second half. Lucke Claborn then grabbed an interception of his own.
With the win, El Reno will face off against McAlester in the quarter-final round of the playoffs.
“Now we get a chance to go do something special,” Atchison said. “Super excited, defense played great, our studs were studs tonight. I thought it was a monumental win.”