Tensions were high Last Friday night. It was the kind of night those in attendance will never forget. The Undefeated Tuttle Tiger Football team made it to the 4A State Championship game. Kickoff was supposed to be at 7 p.m., but due to severe storms in the area the game was delayed. But the threat didn’t keep the stands from filling up. The Tuttle faithful showed up in mass.
Once the “all clear” was given, the Tigers were ready to go and at 8:30 p.m. all the Seniors came walking out of the locker room and down the sideline to the coin toss with two extra jerseys representing two of Tuttle’s own. They were both members of the Tuttle Football family. Number 3 for Cade Boles and number 71 for Brady Carlton.
“They were part of the football family and will always be a part of our hearts. I was honored to be able to carry Brady’s jersey out there,” stated Ian Johnson. “We just wanted to show the families that they aren’t forgotten and that they mean a lot to us.”
Tuttle won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Bethany started their first drive but another lightning delay was called again with 9:39 left in the first quarter. They had to completely clear the stands and field again and made all the fans go back to their cars. The teams had just started warming up again when a third lightening delay was called. Meanwhile the players would have to wait in the locker room for the go ahead. “They were just chomping at the bit,” states Head Coach Ballard. “We just tried to keep them calmed down. We had parents go get snacks and water and just tried to keep them relaxed.”
The final storm of the night cleared and the game re-started at 9:50 p.m., around the time the game would normally be ending. Bethany continued their opening drive into Tuttle territory. Dylan Coffman made the big play on 4th down and forced Bethany’s quarterback, Sam Brandt to get rid of the ball in Tuttle’s red zone giving Tuttle the ball for the first time on the night.
The Tigers got down to business. Pa rker Ross, on the jet sweep, found room around the right side and then cut back across the grain where he picked up some key blocks by Berryhill and Coby Trevino on his way to a spectacular touchdown run. Score 7-0.
Bethany would only get to run a couple plays before they aired it out and Bode Brooks went up and snatched the batted ball out of the air. Brooks would also h ave three tackles on the night. The Tiger’s powerful Offensive Line forged a path for Triston Truelove to run the ball a couple of times opening up for pass play to Camden Periman. Periman scampered down to about the 5 yard line before being knocked out of bounds. Two plays later, Berryhill cut to his right and ducked between two defenders to get into the end zone. Tigers appeared in command 14-0.
“Our offensive line blocked well. Those guys have continued to get better all year long. I’m really proud of them, they have played some really good competition especially these last three weeks,” said Coach Ballard.
However, Bethany wasn’t going down that easily. The Bronchos swiftly moved down the field and Brandt connected with Holzhauzer who was pushed out of bounds at the 1 yard line by Ethan Paxton. Bethany’s quarterback, Brandt was able to punch it in from the 1 yard line and cut the lead by 7.
A few drives later, Bethany had no problem moving the ball again when Brandt connected for 36 yards to Bethany’s Lawson Stout who managed to stay on his feet just enough to get over the goal line. Now the game was tied at 14-14.
On the ensuing drive, after several runs by Vasquez, Berryhill and Truelove, Berryhill launched a beautiful spiral 30 yard pass to Trevino on a deep corner route for the Tigers next score. Kicker Bryce Legg was again perfect on the night going 5 for 5. At half time Tuttle was in the lead again 21-14.
“The strength of this team has always been just the team. It’s not any individual, these guys just play really well together. The coaches have done a great job of prepping them and these guys have bought in and let us coach them. All the work comes when nobody is watching,” stated Coach Ballard.
In the second half the Tigers would get the ball to start, but a forced fumble would allow Bethany’s Brandt to run the ball back 47 yards and a touchdown putting the score back to even 21-21.
Paxton returned the following kick off to around the 20 yard line where Berryhill and company would again go to work. Berryhill found Trevino for 17 yards and a first down. A few plays later, Parker Ross again got in on the action. Berryhill connected with Ross for 43 yards who would out maneuver the Broncho defenders to pay dirt. Ross had 4 receptions for 111 yards. The Tuttle crowd and players alike were fired up! Tigers up 28-21.
On the following drive Tuttle’s defense again stepped it up and after a big sack by Grant Polson on 3rd down forced Bethany to punt the ball. Polson had an excellent night with 6 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackles for losses. The rest of the 3rd quarter would see the ball go back forth with both defenses laying it all on the line. Coffman had 8 tackles and 3 tackles for loss on the night.
“Our defense has played lights out all year long but to hold Bethany to 68 rushing yards while we had 233 yard on the ground. It sounds cliché but to win championships you have to play great defense and you’ve got to be able to run the ball and that’s what we did. It took everyone,” says Coach Ballard.
Late in the third quarter, the Tigers were at their own 10 yard line when Berryhill was hit behind the line of scrimmage and the ball was knocked loose, but the big Sophomore, Korben Graham jumped on the ball to keep Bethany from picking it up and scoring. The Tigers were forced to punt it away with 41 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
The Bronchos did not waste their next drive. Brandt threw a 31 yard touchdown pass to Holzhauser to again tie up the score 28-28. At this point fans on both sides of the field were filled with nervous excitement and cheering relentlessly for their team. It’s anyone’s game now.
The Bronchos forced the Tigers to go three and out again giving the ball back to Bethany, but Coffman’s hit forced Bethany’s quarterback to throw the ball right into the hands of Paxton. The excitement for Tuttle fans was short lived when the Tigers were unable to convert. Thanks to ever vigilant Tuttle Defense Bethany, would not put anymore points on the board.
On Tuttle’s next drive the offense would keep the ball on the ground where Triston Truelove would get a couple of first downs to keep the drive alive. Truelove had 151 yards rushing on the night. Berryhill was the last Tiger to get in the end zone on a 29 yard run giving the Tigers the 35-28 lead and the win. Berryhill would end the night 8/19 for 182 yards passing and 75 yards rushing. Bethany would see the ball again but with 2:21 left to play, Joe Yarbrough ended any hopes the Bronchos had when he intercepted a pass to secure the victory. The Tiger crowd went wild. The Tigers went into Victory formation and ran out the clock. The Tigers stormed the field in celebration where shortly after that Mr. Waitman presented the team with the coveted Gold Ball.
“It was like a dream. A blessing I will forever be thankful for,” said Senior Linebacker, Braden Truelove about getting to play in the State Championship. “My teammates and I put our hearts and souls into football. All the early mornings and long hours we put in paid off in a big way. There could not have been a better way to end it.”
“I’m excited for our community,” says Coach Ballard. “To look up in the stands after midnight and the stands were still full. We share this with all the guys who played here before, all the guys that have coached here, all of our families, all the people at the school and the whole community.”