PONCA CITY — Cashion quarterback Ben Harman faked the handoff out of the shotgun formation and went to Mason Manning without any hesitation.
Running a slant route, Manning and the opposing defensive back for Pawhuska were one on one and essentially on an island by themselves.
As they’ve done many times throughout the season, Harman and Manning connected on the pass. And with just one man to beat, Manning took care of the rest.
“When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s pretty good,” Cashion coach Lynn Shackelford said.
The senior wide receiver squeezed past the defender and coasted into the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown with 3:27 left in the fourth quarter, the final touchdown during another classic semifinal between the two programs. Once again, Cashion came out on top.
The Class A top-ranked Wildcats defeated No. 3 Pawhuska 35-31 Friday night at Ponca City High School, advancing to the championship game for the third consecutive season.
— Nick Sardis (@nick_sardis) December 4, 2021
Cashion (12-1), the defending champion, will play No. 2 Ringling (14-0) for the title at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Chad Richison Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 11.
Cashion’s final touchdown Friday was eerily similar to what happened in its 7-6 win in Pawhuska during last year’s semifinals. Harman tossed a 52-yard touchdown to Landon Lagasse with 3:28 remaining, just a second more than what was left on the clock when Harman and Manning connected on their game-winning score this year.
But that was just about the only similarity between those two games. This time, both offenses showed up and made some huge plays.
Manning wasn’t surprised.
“I expected both teams’ offenses to be able to move it a lot on each other,” he said.
An exciting first half set the stage for the thriller and ended with a 20-18 Cashion lead.
The second half included four lead changes.
Junior quarterback Todd Drummond led Pawhuska’s (11-3) offense throughout the night and finished 15-of-25 passing for 212 yards and one touchdown, an 11-yard jump ball in the end zone to senior Oklahoma State commit Mason Gilkey during the second quarter.
Pawhuska junior tailback Tyrel Richardson also had a solid night, running for 99 yards and two scores on 11 carries.
Cashion leaned on its rushing attack, especially in the second half.
Senior tailback Nick Nabavi was a workhorse and had 29 carries for 208 yards and a touchdown. Harman, also a senior, finished with 21 attempts for 110 yards and two scores.
Their dominance was on full display during the Wildcats’ 16-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by Harman with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. Cashion didn’t attempt a pass during the drive and led 28-21 after a successful two-point try.
“We thought Nick would be our advantage in the run game,” Shackelford said. “And Ben can run the ball. We just don’t do it a lot with him. I thought he was really good tonight. We challenged them at halftime that we were going to run the ball in the second half and try to put it away.”
Pawhuska had a strong fourth quarter and led 31-28 after Cooper Kyler nailed a 38-yard field goal and Richardson scored on a 3-yard run.
After Harman's touchdown pass to Manning, Cashion sealed the win by forcing a turnover on downs at its 28-yard line with 1:26 left.
“It kind of came down to who made plays when they had opportunities to make plays,” Shackelford said.
Reporter Nick Sardis covers high school sports across the Oklahoma City metro and state. Have a story idea for Nick? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @nick_sardis. Support Nick’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at oklahoman.com/subscribe or by using the link at the top of this page.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSSAA football: Cashion edges Pawhuska in Class A semifinals