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FOOTBALL: Sequoyah's ground game shines in rout of Inola

Aug. 26—INOLA — Sequoyah coach Rob Gilbreath planned to ease Tristan Gibson into the offense, but it didn't take long for the junior to wreak havoc.

In fact, it took Inola three attempts just to figure out how to tackle such a specimen of an athlete and football player.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound running back's first two carries went for touchdowns, his initial touch being a 38-yard burst just moments after the Eagles recovered a high onside kick late in the second quarter.

He found space once more with 7:38 remaining in the third quarter, diving across the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown that would serve as Sequoyah's final score of the night.

Gibson went on to finish with 61 yards on four carries (15.3 ypc), powering the visiting Eagles to a 33-7 victory over Inola on Friday night.

His last two carries went for 8 and 1 yards on Sequoyah's final drive, but they were executed between the tackles, strategically aimed at running out the clock effectively.

"We got him out of basketball, and he hasn't played but one year his whole life, and that was in ninth grade," Gilbreath said. "So we have to build and bring him on and slowly, offensively and defensively. He's a great athlete, you know that from basketball, and he's a great asset to our program. I was really happy for him getting a couple of touchdowns there."

After facing repeated injuries in basketball, Gibson opted to return to football, motivated by the desire to explore a new sport and his belief in his potential to excel in it.

And excel he did, even on a limited amount of touches. Gibson's adaptable mindset wasn't fazed, though, because he prioritizes victory above all else.

"I'm fine with whatever as long as we win," Gibson said.

It was clear from the beginning that the Eagles' ground game was the star of the show, amassing an impressive 345 rushing yards at a staggering 11.5 yards per carry.

Gilbreath commended his team's running backs and offensive line, recognizing the early season game as an opportunity for growth.

"This is just a stepping stone, hopefully, for the next week," he said. "We'll make some improvements in practice and evaluate during the film sessions, which will help everybody involved."

The rushing attack for Sequoyah was a collective effort, with multiple ball carriers making significant contributions.

Gavin Pope led the charge with an astonishing 21.5 yards per carry, closely followed by Gibson at 15.3 ypc, Caden Reavis at 12.7 ypc, Dylan Burks at 10.5 ypc and Landon Gilbreath at 9.1 ypc.

The Eagles' ground game was relentless, producing 13 runs of 10 or more yards, including two that went for 25-plus yards and three that went for 30-plus yards.

The longest run of the night was a thrilling 59-yard touchdown dash by Dylan Burks, capping off the first quarter and giving Sequoyah a 7-0 lead.

Burks was a force to be reckoned with, tallying 137 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, including other significant runs of 17, 12, 14 and 13 yards.

He had 116 yards on 10 carries by halftime, but the junior carried the ball only three times for 21 yards in the second half because the game was well in hand by then thanks to the team's early display of offensive prowess early in the game, leading to a substantial 26-0 halftime lead.

Sequoyah turned the ball over on downs at the Inola 11-yard line on its opening drive but scored a touchdowns on its next four drives via Burks' 59- and 4-yard runs, Landon Gilbreath's 17-yard scamper and Gibson's 38-yard rumble.

"We know what Dylan can do, and we knew Dylan is special," Coach Gilbreath said. "He had a lot of success last year at wingback, and we knew he would be the tailback this year. We knew that all along. He's also probably our best receiver, too. He's just an athlete, and he goes hard and he's just a great asset to have on our team, for sure. He's on defense, plays on offense, plays on special teams — he's a big part of why we were successful tonight, for sure."

Despite allowing those impact moments, the Longhorns' defense regrouped during halftime.

The improved defensive effort in the second half limited the Eagles to only 107 yards, quite a contrast to the 238 yards they allowed in the first half. This defensive turnaround began with Rowdie Rock's interception of Landon Gilbreath on the final play of the first half.

Sequoyah didn't attempt a pass after that, leaving Landon Gilbreath with a stat line of zero completions on four attempts in addition to the turnover.

"I would've liked to throw the ball a little better tonight, but we really didn't have to, so we didn't throw it that much," Coach Gilbreath said.

Inola first-year coach Brett Thomas acknowledged the challenge of facing the Eagles' Wing-T attack, calling it a strong offense with a high standard of success.

"We had a good scheme, they just found our weak spot and utilized," Thomas said. "I told our kids that's probably the best offense they'll see this year."

The Longhorns, on the other hand, faced a multitude of offensive setbacks which ultimately hampered their ability to keep pace.

Inola's opening drive seemed promising but ended in disappointment as it turned the ball over on downs at the Sequoyah 28-yard line. This early missed opportunity set the tone for its offensive struggles.

The second drive took a grim turn when the Longhorns lost a fumble at their own 45-yard line, and Sequoyah capitalized on this mistake, scoring just two plays later to take a 13-0 lead.

Inola's special teams also contributed to their woes.

Despite executing a successful fake punt for a first down midway through the second quarter, a holding penalty negated the gain. The following punt went a mere 9 yards, giving Eagles excellent field position, leading to another quick score.

Penalties plagued the Longhorns throughout the game, for they committed nine infractions for a total of 78 yards. These costly penalties frequently derailed promising drives and disrupted offensive rhythm.

Another notable issue for Inola was its struggles keeping the chains moving, going 5-of-12 on third-down conversions and 1-of-4 on fourth downs.

Its lone touchdown came on a 6-yard pass from Dakota Ryder to Rock on a fourth-down play with 11:24 remaining. The Longhorns recovered the ensuing onside kick but lost possession on a fumble shortly thereafter at the Sequoyah 35.

Despite these setbacks, Thomas remained optimistic, emphasizing the learning process for his young team.

"We felt like the offense would be pretty good, and we were," Thomas said. "We'd get a big gain, get going, and then a penalty ... I've got a lot of young linemen, and these kids have to learn to win and fight, and they'll get there."

Sequoyah will be looking to build on this success in their next game against Checotah, a 43-14 winner over East Central, while the Longhorns aim to bounce back and end their 18-game losing streak when they visit Gravette (Ark.), which lost its opener to Pea Ridge, 38-14.