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Big Win for Aggies over ACU
 

Released by Panhandle State Sports Information on 10/21/2018 Rylee Higgins photo<br />  Rylee Higgins photo
 

Goodwell, Okla.—In what Coach Russell Gaskamp deemed as a "pivotal" matchup against Arizona Christian, the Panhandle State football team pulled out an impressive victory over the formerly 5-2 Firestorm. The Aggies earned their fourth Sooner Athletic Conference win on Saturday by a score of 21-14, holding their opponents scoreless through the entire second half of the game.

Panhandle's Darkside Defense entered the contest with a business-like mentality that carried throughout the game, getting their respective jobs done during crucial situations. The Aggie defense held the Firestorm to their lowest rushing yardage allowed this year (34 yards), and capped ACU's average of 440 total yards of offense per game to their third lowest of the season at 363. The Aggies presented a balanced offense obtaining a total of 355 yards, with 161 yards rushing and 194 yards passing.

The Firestorm struck first with a 25-yard pass completion into the end zone on their second possession of the first quarter. Panhandle State stayed scoreless through the first 15 minutes of play, but set up a scoring drive on their final possession going into the second quarter. An ACU penalty on a punt, fair caught by Kyzen Hudson on the OPSU-19, improved the Aggies' field position to their own 34-yard line. Freshman quarterback Martez Vrana then aired out a 65-yard pass to receiver Nick West, who was brought down one-yard short of the Arizona Christian end zone. Running back Danny Valverde Jr. rushed in the one-yard carry to put the Aggies on the board and tie the game at 7-7, just one minute into the second period.

ACU scored on their ensuing possession, after returning a 64-yard kickoff by Javier Medina 43 yards up field. A long pass completion of 49 yards on their first play of the series set the Firestorm inside the Aggies' ten-yard line (OPSU-7), and two plays later the score read 14-7 with the visitors in the lead. Vrana started off behind the proverbial eight-ball on the Aggies' next drive, as a sack from the Firestorm set him back 20 yards deep in Aggie territory on the OPSU-11. Two penalties by ACU gave the 20 yards back to the Aggies, and Carlos Ransburgh grounded out a first down on two plays to bring his team near midfield to their own 42 yard line. Miquel Hudson then hauled in an eight-yard pass to reach the 50. Vrana targeted West two more times totaling 33 yards and 14-yard pass to Cooper Savage sealed the 13-play series with a touchdown to even the score back up at 14-14. An interception by De'Adreyelle Fites saved another ACU score to hold the game tied at the half.

The third quarter was a defensive battle with zero points allowed by either team. Panhandle State set up a field goal attempt on a 13-play series, but the 39-yarderby Javier Medina fell wide-right for his first miss of the season. The Aggies opened the fourth quarter with a bang, as Vrana completed three of five passes for 36 combined yards and had two keepers for eight yards. Valverde moved the chains on 12-yard carry and freshman RB Dylon Cullum made the first touchdown of his collegiate career with an eight-yard rush across the goal line. The Aggie defense forced a punt on ACU's next possession and the Firestorm got the ball back with a forced fumble on a heavy-hit quarterback sack to Vrana at the ACU-37. Freshman DB Gerald Broussard brought the pressure on second and third down plays, and the Firestorm turned the ball over on an incomplete pass on fourth down. ACU prevented ground gain, leaving the Aggies with negative yardage on the next series. The Firestorm threatened in the final three minutes with an eight-play, pass-heavy progression, but their hopes were dashed with a fumble forced by Jawan Purifoy who came up with the ball for Panhandle State. The Aggies set in victory formation to tick out the final 35 seconds and claim their fourth SAC victory of the season.

While elated with the win, Head Coach Russell Gaskamp takes little time to celebrate, with three conference games on the horizon. "Every game from here on out is a 'do or die' scenario for us in the conference race," states Gaskamp. "I thought our kids played with a great sense of urgency this week and were very locked in." He noted, "We missed on some good opportunities to pull away from ACU and widen the lead; and we struggled on the offensive side of the ball, but did enough good things with a couple of big plays by Nick West to get by. We challenged our offensive and defensive lines to win the battle in the trenches, and I think the big difference in the game was our ability to run the ball and us being able to hold their rushing attack to 34 yards." Gaskamp venerated the resolve of the defense adding, "After a couple of busted assignments in the first half, they came out and played outstanding in the second half. Their effort with our good special teams play really won us the game."

The Aggies' defensive unit came away with four sacks for a loss of 36 yards, ten tackles for a combined loss of 53 yards, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one interception. Transfers William Johnson and Diamante Pounds led the team in tackles with six each, along with sophomore linebacker Adrian Johnson who also had six take downs. Senior D'Darrin Primes put in a Prime-Time performance with five solo tackles, two tackles for losses totaling 23 yards and two sacks in the game. Defensive back De'Adryelle Fites came away with the only interception of the day at the end of the second quarter as ACU was approaching the red zone.

Leading the Aggie offense, Martez Vrana completed 13 of 32 pass attempts for 194 yards and one touchdown. Vrana and Valverde led the ground game totaling 57 and 58 yards rushing respectively. Senior Nick West held the game-high in receiving with 106 yards on four targets. On special teams, freshman Kyzen Hudson was the leading returner for the Aggies with two returns for 47 yards; Hudson had one return for 29 yards in the game. Eduardo Villarreal averaged 29.8 yards over five punts and remains perfect in point after attempts, making three of three. Kicker Javier Medina saved a turnover with a quick kick-off on a poorly snapped ball and averaged 63 yards per kickoff with two touchbacks.

Sitting even at 4-4 on the season, the Aggies face a 5-3 team this week and the last of five lengthy road trips as they travel to Waxahachie, Texas to take on Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Live coverage will be available online with a video streaming link posted at opsuaggies.com. The team returns to host their final home game of the season on Nov. 3 against Texas College. The annual OPSU Chili Cook-off will take place during the pre-game tailgate and seniors will be recognized prior to the 2 p.m. kickoff.