COLLINSVILLE — The Tahlequah Tigers didn’t panic, not even when they were shooting themselves in the foot and all the momentum was against them.
They erased two fourth-quarter deficits and Tate Christian’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Tristan King in overtime lifted the No. 2 Tigers to a 35-28 win over No. 6 Collinsville in a thrilling District 5A-4 first-place showdown Friday before about 3,5000 spectators at Sallee Field.
Dae Dae Leathers carried 30 times for 203 yards and two TDs, helping pace the Tigers to their first 6-0 start in 28 years. Unofficially, Leathers has 959 yards in his senior season and is 39 yards shy of reaching 3,000 career yards.
“It goes back to the summer. We knew we had a special group then and the coaches keep pushing us,” said Christian, who totaled three TD passes and tied the game with a 9-yard strike to Simeon Armstrong on a slant route with 24 seconds left in regulation.
The Tigers improved to 3-0 in District 5A-4, tied for first with Pryor, which defeated East Central on Friday night. Tahlequah visits Pryor next Thursday in another first-place battle.
Collinsville (4-2, 2-1) plays at East Central on Thursday.
Tahlequah’s defense dominated the first half and the Tigers led 7-0, but Caden Buoy gave Collinsville a jolt by returning the second-half kickoff 80 yards for the tying touchdown.
After an exchange of touchdowns, Tahlequah was driving for the go-ahead score when Nate Wilkins gave the Cards another jolt. He intercepted Christian and returned the ball 41 yards, setting up the Cards to take their first lead of the game. Kolten Allphin’s first of two rushing TDs put the Cards ahead 21-14 with 13 seconds left in third quarter.
If the Tigers were shaken, they didn’t show it. Instead, they raced 67 yards to tie the score on a 5-yard run by Leathers with 11:26 left. Leathers also had 16- and 20-yard runs in the drive and Christian set up the touchdown with a 26-yard strike to Kobey Baker carrying to the 5.
Collinsville took the lead again, 28-21, with 6:31 left in the game on the second TD by Allphin, who finished with 105 yards on 16 carries.
But the Tigers seemed unfazed again as they used all but the final 24 seconds in driving 70 yards in 14 plays to force overtime.
“It’s one of those games you dream about playing, especially on the road against a really well-coached Collinsville team,” Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert said. “Our guys continued to answer every possession. I talk about our senior leadership all the time and it showed tonight.”
Leathers went 9 yards on the first play of overtime and the Tigers had second-and-goal from the 1, but a false start moved the ball back to the 6 and things seemed more dicey when Christian overthrew an open Armstrong in the end zone on second down.
But on third down, he rolled right and calmly passed to King sliding through the middle of the end zone. King made sure to keep his body under the throw to complete the go-ahead score.
Next, Collinsville got its turn in overtime, but the Tigers stopped Allphin for a 2-yard loss on third down and the Cards were 6 yards away with only one play left.
Allphin rolled to the left and tried a throwback lateral to Jeran Seabolt, who was gang-tackled around the 10 to end the game.