By CRAIG HALL
POTEAU—Late in the third quarter, Hilldale quarterback Dalton Cunningham completed a 34-yard pass.
That completion was less than his average completion up to that point. When a 34-yard pass hurts your yards per completion, you know your team is hurting, but that was the story of Hilldale’s 42-16 win over Poteau in the district opener for both teams here Friday night.
Prior to his last completion of the night, Cunningham was averaging a remarkable 52.1 yards per pass on six completions. He finished with 347 yards passing with only seven completions.
Four of those completions went for touchdowns, including a 99-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter which pretty much sealed the deal as it increased the Hornets’ lead to 28-14.
Hilldale added a pair of scores in the final quarter with the last touchdown coming on an interception return midway through the final quarter.
After Hilldale led 13-7 at halftime, Poteau took the lead on its first offensive play of the third quarter on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Wilson Klutts to Jesse Woodson. Blake Williams’ PAT gave the Pirates the first lead and the game looked like it was going to be a barnburner.
Cunningham was just getting started. Less than two minutes after Poteau took the lead, the Hilldale quarterback completed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Tony Cabrera to put the Hornets back on top.
Poteau was stopped on its next drive and Klutts’ punt was downed inside Hilldale’s 1. But on first down, Cunningham hit Richard Mabery on the fly behind the Pirates’ secondary and he outran Poteau’s defensive back for a touchdown.
The Pirates did add two points on Hilldale’s next possession as Poteau got a safety to cut the lead to 28-16.
After stopping Poteau, Hilldale added another touchdown on an 11-yard run by Jamaul Cullum to go ahead, 35-16.
Early on, Poteau had good field position but could never score. The Pirates had a chance to go on top early, but a bad snap on a short field goal kept Poteau off the scoreboard.
Hilldale struck for its first big play late in the first quarter on a 66-yard scoring pass from Cunningham to Cabrera.
Poteau tied the score early in the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown pass from Klutts to Blake Roley. Hilldale regained the lead on another big play, an 80-yard pass from Cunningham to Mabery.
The Pirates missed another scoring chance in the second quarter as Williams’ 42-yard field goal had plenty of distance but stayed wide right.
Klutts completed 21-43 passes for 222 yards for the Pirates, but was constantly harassed by the Hornets. Poteau only rushed for 44 yards as the running game again struggled, with most of those yards coming after the game was decided.
Hilldale improves to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in district play. Poteau, which lost its second straight, drops to 2-2 and 0-1.
The Pirates are on the road next week at Tulsa Webster.