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Bishop Kelley 2024 DL Sam 'Sack Man' Rhoades literally lives up to nickname for Comets

Air Force commit forces huge takeaways in Comets' opening-round 5A playoff win
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TULSA, OKLAHOMA - Sam “Sack Man” Rhoades is a proven leader on the field for Bishop Kelley

It reflects both in his performance last Friday night and the fact that he is Air Force-bound for college football after he graduates.

The Comet (9-2) senior recovered one fumble and caused another that led to the first two touchdowns for his team, setting the stage for Kelley’s 36-21 victory against McAlester in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs at Angelo Prasso Field.

It marked the Comets’ first playoff victory since 2020 and the elimination of the Buffaloes, the 5A runner-up from each of the last two seasons.

“It feels really good,” Rhoades said. “We played them (McAlester) my sophomore year and we lost. It feels good to get revenge on them. We knew they’re a physical team and knew we had to physically outplay them.”


The Buffaloes (6-5) received the ball first. Then on the first play, senior quarterback Caden Lesnau fumbled before Rhoades made the recovery.

That gave the host Comets first-and-goal at the McAlester 4-yard line.

“We saw their quarterback line up in their ‘tricks’ formation, so we knew some kind of trick play was coming along,” Rhoades said. “So I got off the ball, and once I saw that the ball was going backwards, I knew it was going to be a fumble if it dropped over his head.

"So, I just knew I had to go get the ball.”

Three plays later, senior quarterback Stice Smith was in the end zone from a yard out and it was 7-0.

Oklahoma high school football playoff brackets updated for all classes 

“It was great. We had a lot of momentum coming off of that,” Rhoades added.

Rhoades later caused another fumble that was scooped up by Gage Hall at the 1-yard line and taken into the end zone, and it was 14-0 with under three minutes left in the opening quarter.

“On that play, I had a couple of people double-teaming me down, so I knew the play was going to be going outside of me," Rhoades said. "So I cross-faced over there, and I was lucky to get my hand in, pop the ball out, my teammate Gage Hall was good to get in there, get the ball, and get in the end zone.”

Bishop Kelley's Sam Rhoades 

Bishop Kelley's Sam Rhoades 


Each time those plays were made, the Air Force commit was announced by the PA as Sam “Sack Man” Rhoades.

He got the nickname from teachers years ago due to his quickness at sacking the quarterback.

He said in an interview after the game that his season total was up to nine sacks after the game.


Kelley increased the lead to 21-0 when Eli Hensley scored on a 16-yard run in the second quarter.

McAlester got on the board with a 33-yard run by sophomore Jordan Clark.

Smith got his second TD of the night on a 2-yard run and the Comets had a commanding 28-7 lead at halftime.

But the Buffaloes tried to come back with a pair of TDs in the second half as they trimmed their deficit to seven, 28-21, in the second half. They put together a time-consuming drive in the third quarter that was capped by a 13-yard pass from Lesnau to Malachi Wrice.

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Ethan Watkins then added a 12-yard rushing TD in the fourth. But there would be no more points for McAlester.

Kelley answered as Smith connected with Tyler McGinity for a 62-yard TD. The Comets went for two but came up short.

But they would make up for that with a safety when their defense gang-tackled a Buffalo ballcarrier in the end zone.

Sophomore Gavin Nichols made two late interceptions to secure the win for Kelley.

“Our defense takes a lot of pride in flying around and making the big hits and keeping our energy up,” Rhoades said. “So, it really feeds into how well we play and how it affects the offense.”


With plays made like Friday night, Rhoades is excited about his future coaches at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., knowing about his performance against McAlester.

“I’m playing defensive end there, so I think it’ll be good to show the coaches that I could be playing soon," Rhoades said.

“They have high-level football, and they also have high-level education and I can pretty much go in there and become whatever I want, and I’ll go in there and become a playmaker."

He chose Air Force over Eastern Michigan, Army West Point, Austin Peay and New Mexico State.


Kelley advances to the quarterfinal round, and will meet cross-state rival Oklahoma City Bishop McGuinness, whom they beat back on Sept. 8 at home to start their current nine-game winning streak after an 0-2 start.

That game was at Kelley, and so will Friday night’s playoff game, scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.

The Fightin’ Irish (7-3) are coming off a 42-14 win against Midwest City in the first round.

Photo of Bishop Kelley's Sam Rhoades from his X page

-- Mike Moguin | @SBLiveOK