SKIATOOK — Brayden Gilkey was proud of all the young guys who stepped up for the Collinsville Cardinals on Friday — and Gilkey was one of the guys he was talking about.
The sophomore running back rushed for a career-best 169 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, pacing the No. 6 Cards’ 27-25 win over No. 9 Skiatook in the 97th renewal of the Highway 20 War before about 3,500 spectators at Hap Dunlap Field.
Collinsville improved to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in District 5A-4, clinching second place and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. The Cards end the regular season at home vs. Will Rogers next Friday.
“It’s good to get a win. I was worried,” Collinsville coach Kevin Jones said. “Between us getting in our own way and (Skiatook’s) Jayden Garner being Jayden Garner, it put my blood pressure up there in the second half, but I’m proud of my guys.”
Collinsville led from start to finish, thanks to a powerful smash-mouth running game that averaged 8 yards per carry. The Cards kept the ball most of the first half, held Skiatook without a first down in the first two quarters, and led 14-0 at intermission.
But Garner’s 49-yard kickoff return set up one short third-quarter TD run by freshman quarterback Mason Willingham, and Autry Williams recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to set up another, and suddenly, Skiatook was back in the game at 14-12.
Collinsville then cranked up its powerful running game again — the Cards attempted only two passes — and raced 71 yards in five plays. Gilkey’s second TD, a 37-yarder with 5:47 left in the third quarter, made it 21-12, and it was 27-18 on quarterback Kolten Allphin’s 6-yard run with 9:57 left.
But Skiatook wasn’t through. Willingham threw a 6-yard TD pass to Cash Cooper, capping an 82-yard drive to make it 27-25 with 1:59 left. Out of timeouts, the Bulldogs tried an onside kick, but Collinsville’s Caleb Tehee recovered and the Cards ran out the clock.
“They’re a good ball club, and they kind of wore us down on defense,” Skiatook coach Vance Miller said. “Their big guys up front are a load and they block really well. We were having trouble stopping them.”
Skiatook fell to 5-4 overall and 3-3 in district play. The Bulldogs close at East Central next week and likely will have to have Claremore lose to Tahlequah to make the playoffs.
Gilkey, who also enjoys wrestling and lacrosse, played the final three quarters in place of starting running back Jeran Seabolt, who sustained a shoulder stinger but was able to stay in the game on defense, Jones said.
“We knew we had a really good one in Gilkey and we knew we could lean on him and that’s what we did,” Jones said. “He’s got a chance to be a very good football player.”
Gilkey wasn’t the only sophomore who stepped up for the Cards, who are already ravaged by injuries this season. Two-way lineman Kaden Jones injured his knee Tuesday, and Dempsey Gillman was forced into his first action at right tackle on Friday night.
“He didn’t look real good in practice, and then he came out and played lights out tonight, and I’m proud of him,” Jones said.