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October 13, 2012

Highlanders stuff Duncan

DUNCAN — In what was largely a stalemate between two solid defenses, Friday night’s game came down to a few big plays.

They just all happened to belong to Lawton MacArthur.

Duncan held the visiting Highlanders in check most of the night, but all it took was a few big plays to give MacArthur the lead and its aggressive defense did the rest as the Demons took their first district loss, 15-0.

“Our defense played great, we just gave up a couple of big plays and our offense didn’t execute,” said Duncan senior quarterback/defensive back Tanner Norton. “(MacArthur) just played great ... They are a lot more physical than we expected. We just expected a lot of athleticism.”

The Demons’ offense sputtered for three quarters, picking up just 37 yards and three first downs on their first eight possessions as they fell into a 15-0 hole. Just before the fourth quarter, though, things began to click for Duncan (4-3, 3-0 in District 5A-2) as it drove the ball down field with a mixture of runs and short passes.

On third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Duncan caught Mac off guard with a play action pass and Tanner Norton found a wide open Andrew Peercy in the end zone for what appeared to be a momentum-shifting touchdown.

Surely enough, the momentum shifted, just not in the favor of Duncan.

The Demons had only one penalty Friday, but it was a costly one, as the touchdown was called back due to holding. Backed up to the 24 yard line, facing third-and-goal, Duncan missed on two shots at the end zone, giving the ball back to the Highlanders (5-2, 3-1) with about 6 minutes left to play.

“After we got that holding call, we were just down the rest of the time,” Duncan senior center Riley Peters said. “I don’t know if he actually held on the play or not, but it happens, you’ve just got to move on.”

MacArthur’s first four drives came up empty as the Demons brought pressure and made a plethora of tackles in the backfield. But with just one play, the Highlanders seized control of the game.

Senior running back Darius Graham — just back from injury — took the handoff, shot through the gap and made one good cutback, avoiding defenders and getting into the open field on his way to a 51-yard touchdown run with just over 2 minutes left before halftime.

On their first possession of the second half the Highlanders rode their momentum for their first sustained drive, chewing up 55 yards on eight plays before junior running back Adrian Gaines found a seam, running untouched for a 21-yard touchdown. A successful 2-point conversion run made it 15-0 with 9:06 left in the third quarter.

“Defensively, we played as good as we have all year,” MacArthur coach Brett Manning said. “Offensively, we struggled a little bit, but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Duncan.

“We expected a hard-fought game when we came here and that’s exactly what we got.”

The game continued a theme Demons fans have seen regularly in the first seven weeks, with Duncan’s defense doing its part, but the offense unable to do its. It was the fifth time the Demons have held an opponent below 16 points but also the fourth time Duncan was held to fewer than 13 points.

“Offensively we didn’t execute very well,” Duncan coach Jim Holloway said. “All-in-all we really just had the one good drive all night. We needed more than that.”

The loss doesn’t kill Duncan’s chances of being district champions, but it certainly makes the road harder. If the Demons were to win out, beating Del City along the way, it would finish in a three-way tie with MacArthur and Del City for the top spot in the district, at which time the No. 1, 2 and 3 spots would be determined by margin of victories.

“For us to be district champs, we have to win the next three, and then it would be decided on points,” Holloway said. “All of our goals, are still in tact. We just have to win out to have a chance to be first.”

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