Special to The Sun
There were so many numbers that told the story in Edmond Santa Fe’s state quarterfinal loss to Tulsa Union on Friday night at Wantland Stadium.
Like 5 — the number of turnovers the Wolves had, two of which ended in defensive touchdowns.
Or 359 — the number of rushing yards the Redskins rolled up, mostly after nabbing an early lead.
Even 4 — the number of dropped passes that would have gone for at least a Santa Fe first down — had its impact.
At the end of the night, though, the only number that really mattered — a final score of 52-19 — said enough. And it was easily enough to finish the Wolves’ season at 10-2, while moving Union on to the state semifinals, where the Redskins will continue to go after a fifth consecutive state championship.
“There were too many opportunities we failed to take advantage of,” ESF head coach Lance Manning said. “We just didn’t execute well offensively. We got behind the defense, but we weren’t able to connect. Why? That’s the million-dollar question.
“We know Tulsa Union’s a good football team, but five turnovers against the four-time defending state champions is just not going to get it done.”
Santa Fe fell behind, 21-0, in the first half, as Union dominated the ground game on both sides of the ball in the early going. The Wolves managed plenty of big plays after that. In fact, junior quarterback Justice Hansen finished with 349 yards passing, going 20-of-43. However, all five of Santa Fe’s turnovers came after that early three-touchdown deficit, limiting the ability for a comeback.
Union sophomore running back Terrel Buchanan romped his way to 251 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 29 carries, carrying much of the load for a Redskin offense that punted after its opening possession and then didn’t punt again until the waning minutes.
Union converted two fourth-down attempts on a drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown by Buchanan that put them on the board first. On the Redskins’ next possession, Buchanan broke loose for a 54-yard scoring run and it was quickly 14-0.
A 34-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter put Union up by three touchdowns, but Santa Fe answered back in one offensive play on an 82-yard hookup from Hansen to Trevan Smith, making it 21-7.
A turning point came with less than a minute to play in the first half and Union up, 24-7. Santa Fe had picked up two first downs and driven to the Redskin 25 when linebacker Coleby Evans intercepted a pass over the middle and returned it back to the Wolves’ 30. Union scored three plays later on a 12-yard pass to make it 31-7 at halftime.
Santa Fe went 76 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 28-yard touchdown from Hansen to Calvin Harkless, on the opening drive of the second half. That made it 31-13, but was soon followed by the Wolves’ barrage of turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovered by Union in the end zone for another score.
Of course, anytime the postseason rolls around in Class 6A football, there’s one more number that always lingers — 1995. That was the last year someone other than Jenks or Tulsa Union captured the state football title in Oklahoma’s largest class.
So, while Santa Fe finishes with a healthy record and another trip into the state quarterfinals, the program remains with unfinished business.
“It was a great season,” Manning said. “We just need to figure out a way to get over the hump and move on against teams like Tulsa Union.”