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Pioneers Win District Opener
10-7-15 by Zach Lee
Stillwater could have given its fans a heart attack Friday night.

The Pioneers avoided a heartbreaker in Midwest City after defeating the Bombers 25-22 at Jim Darnell Stadium.

Stillwater (2-3) had a led by 16 heading into the second half, but Midwest City didn't go away easily. The Bombers scored 22 points in the third quarter and tied the game, threatening to beat the Pioneers for the third straight year.

It came down to Stillwater's Zach Bryant for a 46-yard field goal to give the Pioneers their second win this season. After struggling the first three quarters, Bryant, known as magic mullet, said he always had confidence in himself.

"Going out there I knew I was going to make it," Bryant said. "I knew I hit it spot on."

Stillwater placeholder Ben Jessell said he sees him makes those every day in practice.

"I'm with him every step of the way in practice," Jessell said. "I had complete confidence he could do it."

The coaches were upset at Bryant for missing an extra point in the second quarter, but coach Tucker Barnard said it didn't faze Bryant.

"We're getting after him on the sidelines," Tucker said. "He feels bad, but he goes out and drills that kick, and it's a great example of what we're talking about.

"It's easy to quit, but he obviously didn't."

Stillwater's defense allowed only one first down in the first half, but the Bombers turned the game around, beginning the second
half with a 45-yard kickoff return to the Stillwater 21.

Midwest City (3-2) continued to give the Pioneers special teams problems, for the Bombers blocked two punts in the third quarter, one of them forcing a safety and the other leading to a touchdown. Barnard said the issue should be an easy fix.

"We just put ourselves in a bad situation," Tucker said. "We just missed the ball a little bit. I don't think that was a real breakdown in our special teams."

Part of Stillwater's first half dominance came from the coaching staff. Coach Barnard yelled the Bombers plays before they happened.

"We study and watch film" Barnard said. "We've got some baseball coaches on our side, they're pretty good."

Stillwater receiver Jordan Brown no longer wore the yellow jersey in practice, meaning he was 100 percent for the first time this season. He looked as such when he set up Bryant's game-winning field goal with a 48-yard punt return with under a minute to play.

"Whenever I first picked it up, I saw people coming," Brown said. "I was supposed to just go to the right, but I saw my boy Chandler Kissman. I just pointed at him and told him to block the last guy and he got him."

Running back Connor Wilcoxen was also a hero in the Pioneers' win. He led the team with three touchdowns after quarterback Jace Brownlee left the game with a left knee injury.

"The more touches he gets, the better he'll be," Barnard said. "They [Midwest City] really started stacking the box on him."
Brownlee would return after sitting out two series. He finished without missing another snap, becoming a part of Barnard's team philosophy of physically toughness. Barnard said the team pleased him in other ways.

"We persevered mentally," Barnard said. "That was the biggest thing. We're tough enough physically.
"Our issue has been mentally. Man, I think it's a great step in the right direction."