MUSKOGEE — In an area that features highly recruited running backs such as Edison’s Sevion Morrison and Owasso’s Isaiah Jacobs, Muskogee’s Jimmie Coleman has often been overshadowed.
Since the start of last season, Coleman has rushed for 2,580 yards and 34 touchdowns.
On Friday night, Coleman produced 291 yards and four TDs on 28 carries to help lead the third-ranked Roughers past No. 5 Sapulpa 34-6 in a District 6AII-2 matchup at Indian Bowl.
“He’s been doing it all year, for two years,” Muskogee coach Rafe Watkins said. “He gets overlooked a lot. He’s an outstanding back. He’s been a workhorse all year long. He’s shifty, he’s got great feet and great vision. And he’ll be the first to tell you he has a good offensive line in front of him. They did a really good job, especially in the second half.”
The teams’ meetings over the previous three years had been wild affairs that had not been decided until the last seconds, with Sapulpa winning two of them, including 49-48 in overtime last year, despite Coleman’s 201 yards and two TDs.
“That was a pretty hard loss, we knew we owed them something,” said Coleman, a senior who has rushed for 1,107 yards and 14 TDs this season.
Coleman and the Roughers (6-0, 3-0) made sure the outcome was decided well before the final moments Friday despite a valiant effort by Sapulpa (4-2, 1-2). The Chieftains’ top two offensive players, quarterback Eli Williams, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, and running back/receiver Te’zohn Taft, were sidelined. Last year, they combined for 551 yards and eight TDs against Muskogee.
Sapulpa also lost its next two running backs, Marcus Esparza and Wyatt Hall, with injuries during the game. The Chieftains, however, stayed within striking range until late in the third quarter as the Roughers wore them down.
“Hats off to Sapulpa,” Watkins said. “Even though (Eli) Williams didn’t play defense, losing him was a lot for their team to shoulder. I thought they did an unbelievable job tonight, they were very tough. We knew it would be a tough game; Sapulpa kids are always tough. It was a challenge for us.
”I told our kids Sapulpa was going to play harder and we’ve got more pressure on us. It looked like we were a little tense in the first half, but we came out in the second half running it and played good defense. I was proud of our effort.”
Late in the first half, Sapulpa trailed only 7-6 and threatened to take the lead before Muskogee’s Ty Williams picked off a pass in the end zone — his second interception of the quarter and sixth of the season.
That sparked the Roughers, who then drove 80 yards in six plays, capped by Coleman’s 34-yard TD run and the Roughers took a 14-6 lead into intermission.
Muskogee put the game away with three TDs in a five-minute stretch midway through the second half.
Coleman’s 3-yard TD run off right tackle made it 20-6 with 3:46 left in the third quarter. After Sapulpa missed a 45-yard field goal in the period’s final minute, Coleman scored on a 90-yard scamper for a 27-6 lead. Maurice Chaplin’s 2-yard TD run made it 34-6 with 11 minutes left.
Zac Mason, in his first varsity start for Sapulpa as the replacement for TCU commit Eli Williams, completed 17-of-26 passes for 142 yards.
Coleman’s 4-yard touchdown run on an untimed down at the end of the first quarter gave the Roughers a 7-0 lead.
Sapulpa answered as Mason sneaked in for a 1-yard TD, but the extra-point kick was blocked to keep Muskogee ahead 7-6 with 7:55 left in the first half.
But then Coleman and the Roughers took control, and for the first time since 2015 in this series there wasn’t a suspenseful ending.
“Sapulpa came out real hard, but we kept fighting and fighting,” Coleman said, “After they gave us an ‘L’ last year, this was a real big win.”