February 4, 2023

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EDMOND — The mayhem started when Charlie Ghaniabadi landed on the football in the end zone, and it didn’t stop until the game was over.

Heritage Hall forced six turnovers. River Faulkner and Andy Bass freak out. And the quarterback, who set a record in the Oklahoma High School playoffs, wasn’t on the winning team.

The high-scoring frenzy ended in a gold ball for Heritage Hall. The No. 2 Chargers defeated third-seeded Metro Christian (72-56) in Thursday night’s Class 3A Finals at Chad Richison Stadium to win their first state title since 2018.

Coach Brett Bogert hugged Faulkner, who rushed for 222 yards and five touchdowns, near midfield before the team celebrated with the trophy. The senior tailback finished his high school career with a 61-yard touchdown, shot through the Patriots defense and watched the scene on the video board as he zoomed in 61 yards into the end zone.

Faulkner and Bogert credited the offensive line with paving the way.

More:How an unlikely group of O-Linemen led the Heritage Hall run to the Class 3A finals

“They’ve grown a lot,” Faulkner said. “They’re just a bunch of pigs up front. There aren’t any other linemen I’d rather run after.”

One of those guys set the tone for the Chargers (13-1) early on.

Ghaniabadi, a junior who plays both offense and defense, fell through a fumble on the Chargers’ first touchdown in the end zone and capitalized on Metro Christian’s botched snap.

Heritage Hall led 7-0 with 10:03 in the first quarter.

Then, without the clock running down, that number jumped to 14-0 after Jerrod Williams scored on a muffled kick-off. Although he recovered the ball in the end zone, the officials ruled it was a touchdown and not a touchback as the ball had touched Metro Christian’s returner.

Bogert said he thought the ball rolled into the end zone, but he would not disagree with officials when the call went in favor of the Chargers.

“It was just, ‘Oh my god, here we go, hold on to our seats for the rest of the game,'” Bogert said. “It was just wild, back and forth.”

More:Good things come to those who wait? These three Oklahoma HS football teams hope so

The combined score of 128 set an Oklahoma High School State Championship record, as did Heritage Hall’s score of 72 – Bogert joked that number was for Ghaniabadi, who wears it on his jersey. Metro Christian’s senior quarterback Kirk Francis also made history by throwing for an Oklahoma playoff-record 626 passing yards.

Relying almost entirely on excellent passing, Metro Christian (12-1) rushed for just 28 yards while four Patriots rushed for more than 100 yards. Francis kept Metro Christian within striking distance, firing deep passes at wide-open receivers who expertly caught them.

“[There was]always this thought in the back of your mind, like, ‘They’re coming back,'” Faulkner said. “‘We have to keep our foot on the pedal.’ And we kept scoring.”

Heritage Hall took a different approach, leaning on their electric running game, and it worked. The Chargers rushed 500 yards. Junior quarterback Bass threw for 105 yards and a touchdown, but he shone brightest on the floor, posting 256 yards and two points.

“That says a lot about our team,” said Bogert. “The recipients could have been upset that we didn’t throw it often, but they aren’t. They’re out there locking their butts and we’re turning first downs into touchdowns.

“We said, ‘Andy, River, we put it in your hands. Go win a state championship.” And they did it.”

More:The Oklahoman’s Week 14 pick for every high school football game in the state

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