If anyone who attended the Sapulpa Chieftains’ season opener Friday evening wondered if the trials of the 2017 campaign would continue into 2018, their curiosity was put to bed in big and rapid fashion.
Sapulpa used a potent and dominant ground game in a bruising 34-13 victory over the Tulsa Edison Eagles at Collins Stadium. But it was a pass on Sapulpa’s first play from scrimmage that told the Chieftain faithful that the evening held something special for the home team. Sapulpa quarterback Elijah Williams connected with wide receiver Te’zohn Taft on a 61-yard bomb to put the Chieftains up 6-0 before any time had ticked off the clock.
The opening strike was one of only four times that the Chieftains would go to the air the entire evening. After the opening air attack, both sides settled into a tit-for-tat ground attack that saw Chieftain running backs A.J. Checotah rush for 63 yards on 14 carries, and Marcus Esparza bag 62 yards on eight carries.
Edison’s first possession ended after four plays with a gift-wrapped scoring opportunity for the Chieftains when Sapulpa linebacker Isaac Edwards blocked and recovered an Edison punt to set up a Chieftain first and goal at the Edison five yard line. However, the Chieftains endured a three-and-out of their own when the Chieftains were unable to find the end zone on a drive that was marred by a false start penalty to set Sapulpa back five yards on the drive’s first play. The scoring opportunity came to nothing when Sapulpa kicker Kaivon Mortazavi missed a 14-yard field goal attempt.
The Chieftains took a 13-0 lead at the 3:05 mark of the first quarter when Checotah found the end zone on a one-yard run to cap a six play, 25-yard drive.
Edison responded at the 11:10 mark when Eagles running back Sevion Morrison busted loose on a 49-yard run to put the score at 13-6 on his third rush of the evening. Morrison opened his 2018 account with 226 yards on 19 rushes, and eight receiving yards on one reception.
Sapulpa responded at the 4:35 mark of the second quarter when Taft found the end zone on second down and 7 with a nine-yard run to set the halftime score at 20-6.
The Chieftains extended their lead to 27-6 at the 4:42 mark of the third quarter when Williams capped a five-play, 67-yard drive with a 13-yard rush and Mortazavi charity point to put the Chieftains up 27-6. The drive featured a circus play on which Taft and Kenyon Kahmeyer combined for a 31-yard rush to set the Chieftains up with a first down at the Eagles 21 yard line.
The Eagles showed late signs of life when Morrison erupted on a 57-yard scoring sprint from the Eagles 43 yard line to come to within 27-13 with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter, only to see Esparza seal the deal for the Chieftains at 34-13 on a first and goal plunge from the Edison one yard line with 6:15 left in the contest.
The Chieftains will look to notch their second win of the season next Friday in a 7:00 p.m. contest against the Claremore Zebras at Collins Stadium.