Noble, OK – Class 5A, District 1 saw a major match up on the schedule and Friday was no disappointment. The undefeated Lawton Macarthur Highlanders had a date with the Noble Bears. Noble, 5-2 (3-1), came into the game with only one loss and looked to remain in a three-way battle for first place in the district. Led by star quarterback, Colin Fisher, who is committed to the University of Arkansas for baseball, the Bears seemed poised to knock the undefeated Highlanders off course.
The game began fast as Noble took less than three minutes to find the end zone and take an early touchdown lead. MacArthur didn’t hesitate either and Isaiah Gray, Mac’s standout running back, would scamper for his first touchdown of the night and tie the ball game up with 6:44 remaining in the quarter. Gray had a huge night, but we can get to that in a moment.
The Highlander defense struggled early but was able to cause the game’s first turnover after a costly pass interreference call set Noble up inside the 20-yard line. The defender who was flagged was also the defender, Johnathan Love, who intercepted the ball and put the ball back into the hands of the “Flash” himself, Isaiah Gray. Just a few moments later, Gray would take it 54 yards to the house and give Mac a 13-7 lead with 3:44 to go in the first quarter. The Bears answered quickly and regained the lead late in the first on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Fisher to Brandon Harper. The score after the first 12 minutes was 14-13, Noble.
The second quarter began with both defenses appearing to be settling in. The Bears forced MacArthur into their first three and out and the Highlanders forced a turnover on downs on a Noble fourth and nine. The Bears would get the ball right back on a fumble inside the twenty-yard line and would score a few plays later courtesy of running back Colin Thomas, making it 20-13 in the second quarter.
The very next drive, Gray would score his third touchdown of the night. His second 50+ yard rushing score would bring MacArthur back within one point, 21-20. The Highlander defense would cause another Noble turnover, but to no avail as the offense petered out another three and out.
The Bear’s final score of the half came from an impressive, three-minute drive that left less than a minute on the clock. The score was 28-20, Noble, with :57 remaining in the half. With all the momentum going their way, an eight-point lead over a very solid Highlander team, feeling confident heading into the half, they just had to not kick it to #4. They did. Gray took the following kickoff 60 plus yards and got Mac right back in it. The score at the half: 28-27 Noble.
Head coach of the Highlanders, Brett Manning, said after the game that, “We weren’t happy in the first half about how we defended them… but we were able to make some adjustments.”
After halftime, both defenses really appeared to settle down and begin to have an impact as the first score of the second half came halfway through the third quarter when quarterback of the Highlanders, Gage Graham, found wide receiver, Vaughn Poppe, in the corner of the end zone to regain the lead at 33-28 after a failed two-point conversion with 6:28 remaining in the third quarter.
The MacArthur defense would create Noble’s third turnover of the game with a tipped pass from cornerback Jaidyn McBroom that was eventually intercepted by Dominic Collins. The play was ruled dead, even though the football never hit the ground, but the call was overturned, and Mac set up shop on their own 27-yard line. The Highlanders would drive the length of the field and punch it in from the one-yard line to go up by fourteen, 28-40, with 4:32 remaining in the third.
Devin Bush would rumble his way to the end zone from 48 yards out and extend their lead even more, 28-47, with under a minute to go in the third.
The Mac defense showed up big time in the fourth quarter with two huge fourth down stops. One, a fourth and goal from the one-yard line, and the other, a fourth and nine stop right after the offense gave up a safety due to a penalty in the end zone. Mac still led 30-47 with just under eight minutes to go in the game.
Isaiah Gray saw his fifth touchdown of the game wiped off the board due to a holding penalty. This stalled another long MacArthur drive and would allow Noble a chance to score. The Bears scored midway through the fourth to cut the lead to ten, 37-47. Mac’s offense stalled again, and the Bears threatened to score and come within a possession, but the Highlander defense, the big highlight of the second half, came up with another huge stop. This time, courtesy of Mac’s third interception, Montez Edwards sealed the game in the end zone.
Manning had this to say about his team’s focus.
“I just tell our guys to do their jobs, don’t worry about anything outside of that, and they did that tonight.”