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Stillwater Falls To Deer Creek In Opener
9-5-15 by Chandler Vessels - @ChandlerVessels
The ball slipped from Jaden McCune's hands and he watched haplessly as Blake Landon pranced down the field and into the end zone.

It was that kind of night for the Stillwater, who lost at Deer Creek, 31-7.

The aerial attack was nowhere to be found, as McCune passed for 34 yards and hit his target a mere six of 17 tries.

The lone touchdown of the night for the Pioneers came late in the fourth quarter from Josiah Castleberry, who saw an opening and sprinted his way 59 yards for the score. Unfortunately, the Antlers had already accumulated a 31-point lead by the time Castleberry was able to put the Pioneers on the board.

It didn't help that the Pioneers were missing key players in receiver Jordan Brown, running back Quan Malveaux and quarterback Jace Brownlee due to suspension.

"We've got some talented kids that are playing and we had to kind of patch it together tonight," coach Tucker Barnard said. "But that's just the way it goes. Next man up."

Stillwater had its chances to score. Two promising drives ended in fumbles from McCune, and the Pioneers watched as the gap widened.

Despite whiffing on two great opportunities to score via field goals in the first half, the Pioneers faced a surmountable 14-point deficit at halftime.

After a mishandled snap resulted in confusion and an eventual turnover on downs for the Pioneers on their first field goal try, they got a chance at redemption. Zach Bryant prepared to kick a 40-yard field goal. He got into motion and booted the ball, which ended up being a line drive that barely made it over the line and didn't go as far as the five-yard line.

To start the second half, a bevy of Pioneers were succumbing to cramps. Despite the minor injuries, Stillwater was able to keep Deer Creek from scoring in the third quarter. The game was still reasonably within reach. But in the fourth, their bodies were too worn down by the heat.

"It was hot so of course we were cramping up a lot," defensive lineman Kameron Linsenmeyer said. "But they never really went away, I just kind of battles through it and became a man."

It started with a 46-yard field goal from the Antlers' Parker Noble. Then, after a fumble recovery, quarterback Clayton Sims found Zach Kersetter down the left sideline for a 39-yard score. Then came the fumble from McCune and the 63-yard return for a touchdown that put Deer Creek up 31-0.

"Zach, he's just such a playmaker," Deer Creek coach Grant Gower said. "He's so tough to cover as you saw."
The bright spot for the Pioneers tonight was the running game. Stillwater combined for 325 rushing yards, 164 of which came from Castleberry.

"He played great," Barnard said. "Ran the ball hard and seemed to see the holes and find them. He's also a defensive player we've seen the way he's carrying the ball on offense has kind of kept him off the field a little bit defensively. We've been real proud of him. Really, all those tailbacks. We said it was going to be done by committee and I think it kind of came up that way tonight."
But Stillwater couldn't get anything done through passing. Too many on-target passes bounced off receivers' hands.

"We've got to get those balls caught," Barnard said. "We hit some receivers in the hands and we've got to get those balls caught, got to extend some drives. The kind of team that we want to be able to be, we've got to be able to move those chains four yards at a time."

The Pioneers hope to get this loss out of their minds as soon as they can.

"[We've] just got to focus on our next game against Mustang at home," Castleberry said. "Hopefully we'll pull out a win."