Howe, OK 74940
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| Ben Johnson
It's hardware galore as spring sports wind down. Michael and Ben dissect baseball, slowpitch softball, golf, track & soccer as teams and individuals enter the final weekend of competition for this athletic season.
Find out which performances this spring have impressed the guys the most, and listen in as they give props to the outstanding offensive performances at the slowpitch state tournaments that happened to close out the school year.
All that, plus some coaching moves to mention, including Justin Brown filling the shoes left by Larry Callison at Tahlequah Sequoyah. And also some football recruiting tidbits.
Thanks as always for listening.
WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK! Have a topic you'd like discussed, or have any questions for us, feel free to contact the show at:
| Ben Johnson
Fort Coffee is headed for the big stage.
Wait, Fort Coffee? Where is that? Is it in Oklahoma?
It’s a town that might go unrecognized, outside of severe weather coverage in Oklahoma, but Fort Coffee sits in the Arkansas River bend near Skullyville and northeast of Spiro. Just find LeFlore County in far eastern Oklahoma, and it sits at the very northern tip of the county.
It’s where McKinley Whitfield has called home all his life.
Now Whitfield will fly the Fort Coffee flag proudly when he attends New York Giants mini camp.
“It means everything in the world to me to represent Spiro and Fort Coffee,” said Whitfield, a former standout at Spiro High School before playing college football at the University of Tulsa.
“I grew up there my whole life, and I just try my best to be a inspiration to all the younger kids there.”
Whitfield, measuring at 6 feet, 3 inches and 217 pounds, knows professional athletic endeavors don’t come along often for those growing up in Fort Coffee.
“Not many people from the area get changes like these,” he said, “so it’s a blessing.”
Whitfield, a safety by trade, recently watched the NFL Draft intently, hoping for his name to appear in the later rounds. But all seven rounds breezed by, despite a few draft boards mentioning Whitfield as a possible late-round candidate.
“It was very frustrating,” said Whitfield, who logged 264 tackles and 19 pass breakups during his collegiate career. “Everybody was thinking that I was going to get drafted, so I didn’t want to let anybody down. I just tried to keep myself busy during the whole process and be around my family.”
It didn’t take long for Whitefield to draw an invitation to New York’s minicamp, which begins this weekend.
“It feels good getting a chance to go play at the next level,” said Whitfield, who nabbed four interceptions while at Tulsa. “Of course I would rather have gotten drafted or a free agent deal, but it’s just more motivation for me.
Whitfield joins four other TU players as mini camp invitees. Justin Hobbs and Willie Wright will work out for the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, respectively, and two other in-state talents, Tyler Bowling (Yukon) and Chandler Miller (Bixby), will try to earn a spot with the Atlanta Falcons.
Leading up to the draft, Whitfield never had much interaction with the Giants, chatting with the organization once while at a senior event in Texas. But now he gets a chance to prove Fort Coffee belongs in the NFL.
“I’ve always been a hard worker since I was a kid,” Whitfield said. “That definitely isn’t going to stop now.”
*Photo credit: University of Tulsa
| Ben Johnson
No introduction needed. Here are the "expert" picks for state tournaments taking place this weekend. (Oh, and listen to the podcast while you're at it!)
Ben Johnson - Edmond Memorial: There are so many players to love in this field -- Putnam City West’s Rondel Walker, Sapulpa’s Camryn Dennis, Putnam City North’s Micah Thomas, Booker T. Washington’s Bryce Thompson and so many more. But Shane Cowherd is bringing a team with talent across the board. There’s a reason the coaches in the state have the Bulldogs as the top-ranked team, so I’ll side with Cowherd and Co. over Booker T. Washington in the finals.
Michael Swisher - Edmond Memorial: The Bulldogs snuck in after losing to Midwest City and squeaking by rival Santa Fe. They’ll play better this week and bring the trophy down south.
Whitt Carter - Booker T Washington: This will be a fantastic tournament filled with teams that can win it. But I’ll take the Hornets, as they have the experience in big games and are hungry for a title. They had to watch Memorial win two in a row in Class 5A and this year their get one of their own. Another side note, BTW’s Seth Hurd is my favorite and the most underappreciated player in the state.
Ben - PC West: Reckless abandon is what the Patrios will play with this weekend, just like they’ve done all year. Not a ton of big-time scorers for PC West, but last year’s runner-up will hoist the gold ball this year.
Michael - Putnam City West: No. 1 in Oklahoma. Nationally-ranked. Haven’t lost to a team from Oklahoma. Won’t this weekend, either.
Whitt - Putnam City West: They were right there last year and had their title taken in the waning seconds by Owasso. All they’ve done this year is go 23-1 with a loss to Skyline, TX and dominate the teams inside the state of Oklahoma. Their relentless style of play and approach will be the difference, as they finish on Saturday this time and cut down the nets.
Ben - Memorial: Boone twins. It’s that simple. The Chargers have been a dynamo in 5A with two straight titles and now going for a third. Northwest Classen is good, but can Davion Warden and Co. make it to the title game and then take down the Chargers? I don’t see it.
Michael - Memorial: Lenny Hatchett has Del City playing so well, but I can’t pick against Memorial. Neither should you.
Whitt - Memorial: Let’s all be honest, this is the easiest pick from any of the classes. Bobby Allison and gang are just on another level. The Boone twins will, once again, wow the crowds at the Mabee Center with their athleticism and impact on both ends of the floor. The Chargers get another one, sending Kalib and Keylan out with a bang.
Ben - Piedmont: Per usual, the 5A girls field is pretty much anyone’s for the taking. Rogers is dangerous, but then so is El Reno with Ashlyn Evans-Thompson leading the charge. Coweta is young but talented, and East Central is always a threat. But for this year, I’ll go with the Wildcats, led by Delanie Crawford (14.8 points a game) and Maci Attalla (13.6).
Michael - Piedmont: El Reno beating Ardmore at area put the bracket in a funk as it appears loaded at the bottom. Coach Carr’s team will emerge from that and then claim gold on Saturday.
Whitt - Ardmore: They suffered a surprising and tough loss to El Reno at the area tournament last week, but I think that may work to the Lady Tigers advantage by waking them up. This team rolled through the first part of the season, losing their first game in late January. Ardmore cuts down the nets and gets its’ third gold ball.
Ben - Kingfisher: Some unbelievable talent in this field -- Broken Bow’s Josh Jones (20.4 points per game), Central’s B.J. Jefferson (16), Elgin’s Conner Slater (16.3), Kingfisher’s Trey Green (17) and Heritage Hall’s Trey Alexander (24.8). And what’s scary is a lot of these teams will return a lot of talent next season. But for now, I’m zeroing in on a Kingfisher-Heritage Hall title game for a second straight year. This time the gold ball goes to Jett Sternberger, Matt Stone, Bijan Cortes and Co.
Michael - Kingfisher: I live in Kingfisher. I have to pay my bills. I have to pick the Yellowjacket. Oh, and they’re really, really good. And hungry. If they get by dangerous Elgin in the quarters, look out.
Whitt - Kingfisher: The class that everyone is excited for will take center stage at the Fairgrounds for all three days. Heritage Hall beat the Yellowjackets in the title game last year and are 26-0 this year. But the star-studded Kingfisher remembers that loss last March and will want revenge. They get it and send out their seniors with a second gold ball.
Ben - Anadarko: Top half of the bracket -- Holland Hall, Muldrow, Elgin and Classen SAS -- is STACKED. Again, STACKED. That’s part of the reason I went with Anadarko. The Warriors still have their work cut out for them, but I’m rolling the dice with Kaylee Borden (12 points a game), Averi Zinn and the rest of the Anadarko team to win its third gold ball.
Michael - Muldrow: Coaches tell me Classen SAS is as talented as they’ve seen in 4A in a while. And they’re young as they start three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. That said, I’m going with Muldrow. Taylen Collins can match up with Littlepage-Buggs and Hannah Boyett can handle the pressure. And that’s just a semifinal. Don’t overlook Anadarko, either (it appears I am).
Whitt - Anadarko: A fairly wide open class, there are a handful of teams I could see winning it. I’ll go with the tradition-rich Anadarko, who beat one of the favorites, Classen, last Friday in the area finals. When the Lady Warriors get the press up and running, you better handle the pressure or things can unravel quickly.
Ben - Millwood: Kingston’s Jacob Germany is as good as it gets in this field, but I’ll side with the athleticism of the Falcons here. Give me Justin Wilson and Isaiah Williams and the rest of the Falcons.
Michael - Here’s hoping for a Kingston-Millwood final (all apologies to you other six). I’ve got personal ties to Millwood, so the fan in me is pulling for the Falcons all the way. The business side in me says Kingston won’t be denied.
Whitt - Millwood: I’ll take the Falcons to win the gold ball here. Several really good teams that you can pick here, including Kingston or Sequoyah on the other side. Ultimately, I think Millwood gets the winner of that eventual semifinal and beats them. Millwood has not lost inside the class this year and that won’t change this weekend.
Ben - Christian Heritage: Up from 2A, the Crusaders are still loaded. Tahlequah Sequoyah is probably the favorite, but I’ll side with Olivia Curtis and Rylee Langerman.
Michael - Sequoyah-Tahlequah: CHA has won the last two 2A crowns and is a sleeper, but this isn’t 2A and the Lady Crusaders aren’t as deep as they have been. Larry Callison rides into the sunset with another state championship.
Whitt - Christian Heritage: Another class with some big time teams, but I’ll take CHA to win another title as it took the jump up a class this season. They know how to win and ultimately get past Sequoyah in what would be an awesome semifinal. Side note, I am really picking my alma mater, the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs - in Toby Todd we trust.
Ben - Hennessey: Total guess here, so I’m siding with Hennessey, who -- along with Hooker -- has only lost twice this season.
Michael - Hooker: This is the most wide-open bracket in OKC, in my opinion. Any number of teams can win…and also get beat Thursday. Hooker is one of them.
Whitt - Dale: They are coming off a big win over Hooker last week to punch their ticket to the state tourney. They have played well inside the class this year, going 12-2, only losing to Cashion a month ago and Rock Creek back in January.
Ben - Dale: I’m programmed to believe that Dale wins everything when its in any state tournament field. Pirates win again.
Michael - Howe: No Cashion and no CHA this year, which have been Howe’s kryptonite the last three years. Dale is in the way, but Jalei Oglesby caps her stellar career with the gold ball.
Whitt - Latta: I’ll go with what many would consider a sleeper pick here, but give me the Lady Panthers. They are a long team and present a bunch of problems defensively. They will have to get past top-ranked Dale in the semis and it would be the rubbermatch between the two.
| Ben Johnson
Made a big podcast addition this week. Ben & Swisher are joined by the Oklahoman's Jacob Unruh.
Jacob & Swisher recap the highlights and the championship moments from the Class A & Class B state tournaments.
Then the guys break down the state tournaments from 2A through 6A. And of course, PREDICTIONS! (Most sure to go wrong, in Ben's case).
And as always, thanks for listening!
| Ben Johnson
Bixby has been stingy when it comes to hoarding football championships. The Spartans have won four of the past five Class 6AII championships, and don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon.
What Bixby hasn’t claimed often since the turn of the century has been wrestling titles. Nic Roller’s individual championship at 220 pounds in 2016 has been the Spartans’ only crown since 1998.
But freshman Zach Blankenship is out to change all of that.
At 120 pounds, Bixby’s wrestling phenom is 24-0, and that includes four tournament championships to his credit so far.
“I didn’t really think I’d be having the season I am now,” Blankenship said. “I’m just thankful that I’ve been having this much success.”
Bixby came up short in its pursuit of the District 6A-7 crown on Tuesday night with a loss to Jenks, but Blankenship posted two victories and collected another one by forfeit. Those came only days after winning the Jerry Billings Invitational at Sapulpa, where he won by fall at 1:43 in the 120 finals against Collinsville’s Rocky Stephens, a 5A state champion at 113 last season.
“Zach has risen to the occasion and made a name for himself in the high school realm,” Bixby coach Brock Moore said. “He goes hard every second of every match and makes good things happen. He wants to wrestle the best guys he can. He’s fun to watch and coach.”
To reach the finals in Sapulpa, Blankenship won by fall against Sand Springs’ Riley Weir, who won last year’s 113 championship in 6A.
“His most impressive win so far might’ve been at Sapulpa, where he beat two-time state champion Riley Weir,” Moore said. “And that’s saying a lot for someone who has 21 wins by fall this season.”
Blankenship started the 2019 calendar year by winning the Larry Wilkey Invitational at Jenks. He knocked off Stillwater’s Cade Nicholas 4-2 in the finals.
“As a freshman, he has won four tournaments and has also been named the most outstanding wrestler at each of those tournaments, too,” Moore said. “I haven’t ever seen or known of another freshman to do that.”
Announcing his presence at the varsity level, Blankenship won the 120-pound division at the Perry Tournament of Champions in December. He cruised through the entire field with all of his victories by fall, including pinning Edmond Memorial’s Garrett Johnson at 3:32 for the 120 crown.
Not bad for someone who was wrestling among the junior high ranks not too long ago.
“The biggest difference between varsity and junior high has been the kids I’ve had to wrestle,” Blankenship said. “In junior high, the kids I had to wrestle were usually my age and size. In varsity, I’ve had to wrestle a lot older and bigger kids, which has made it a lot tougher.
“I’m just fortunate to have great coaches and parents who help me get better every tournament.”
‘Wrestleback’ Wildcats win Carl Albert tourney
It was Skiatook, Duncan, Piedmont and Altus vying for the Malcolm Wade Invitational crown at Carl Albert on Saturday, and with a quick glance it doesn’t appear as though Piedmont fared well. But on the contrary, Piedmont managed to claim the team title with only one individual champion.
The Wildcats, led by Josh Heindselman’s triumph at 285, finished with 242.5 points and won the tournament title. Skiatook (226) and Duncan (219) rounded out the top three.
“We were excited to win it,” Piedmont coach Erik Ford said. “We knew we had a chance going into the tournament. On Saturday, it was really exciting to see our guys score a lot of bonus points and really wrestle well on the backside of the bracket to give us the push that we needed.”
In the final match of the tournament, Heindselman recorded a pin at 2:37 against Lawton MacArthur’s Montana Phillips, who won last year’s 5A championship at heavyweight.
“Josh has been really impressive,” Ford said of the University of Oklahoma signee. “He weighs about 225 right now, so he is really wrestling up a weight. He has found another level as far as his movement and attacks go. His pressure and constant attacking has been the most impressive part about his wrestling this year. It has really allowed him to negate some of the size that he is giving up against heavyweights.”
Piedmont finished the tournament with 10 wrestlers recording top-six finishes. Tabor McLure (138) and Landis Scoon (152) both came in second place, and Mitchell Lance (132), Braden Culp (170) and Austin Cooley all posted third-place finishes atop the consolation bracket.
“Our guys learned that they can wrestle with some of the top 5A teams in the state,” Ford said. “…Our guys understand that winning the Carl Albert tournament is huge for our program, but they also know that our end-of-season goals as individuals and as a team are what we have been working for all year. And we’ll continue to work on those going forward.”
Other wrestling notes
- Edmond North picked up 194.5 points and won the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference (COAC) Tournament title on Saturday. Mustang was second at 191.
- Tuttle cruised to the Greg Henning Invitational crown on Saturday with 362 points.
Prep hoops notes
- There’s a new No. 1 in Class 6A boys after Edmond Memorial beat Edmond Santa Fe 56-42 in the championship game of the Bishop McGuinness Classic. Edmond Memorial was ranked fifth Saturday and moved up to 6A’s top spot, while Edmond Santa Fe dropped from No. 1 to third. Booker T. Washington is second in between the two.
- Crushing the field in the Putnam City West Invitational wasn’t enough to move Heritage Hall (14-0) to the top of the 4A coaches’ poll. The Chargers are still second behind top-ranked Kingfisher (11-1). Heritage Hall’s Trey Alexander scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Chargers’ win over PC West in the finals.
- It's a big week for the state's two smallest classes as playoff assignments will be released Friday by the OSSAA (as if 95 percent of the coaches don't already know, through the grapevine, where they're headed). We're told David Glover, who makes the assignments for 4A and below, was about 99 percent finished with the assignments early this week. A committee meeting was held Wednesday, which generally leads to a few tweaks. Most of those are host sites, although sometimes teams are moved to different regionals or areas as a result of those meetings. No doubt a lot of people will be up in arms once the assignments are released, but that happens every year. What it does signify is that the playoffs are near and we all love that part of the season.
- One of those small school teams got a big boost during the holiday break. The Duke boys, already undefeated and ranked second in Class B, added Jameson Richardson to the roster at the beginning of this semester. Richardson, a 6-foot-8 junior forward with a load of versatility, transferred from his hometown of Mangum. He averaged right around 20 points and was a solid rebounder and rim protector for Mangum in his eight games prior to the move. Duke was already manhandling most opponents before his arrival, but hasn't been played closer than 18 points (61-43 over Granite last week) since his arrival.
- Next week is the biggest tournament week of the basketball season and it will be loaded with top matchups. However, a couple of No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns already took place during girls championship games during last week's slate. In Class 2A, top-ranked Dale held off No. 2 Howe 65-55 at the Kingston New Year's Classic. Howe's Jalei Oglesby was "held" to 31 points. "She missed a few shots and eventually fouled out or she would have had more," said first-year Dale coach Eric Smith, who led Alva to a pair of titles and got Frontier to last year's Class A title game. "She is unbelievable." Dale, led by Lacey Savage's 18 points, improved to 14-1 with the victory, which very well could have been a state championship preview. Down in Class B, No. 1 Hammon defended its Warrior Classic championship by earning a 50-44 come-from-behind win over No. 2 Lomega. Last year, Hammon was No. 2 when it beat No. 1 Lomega in the finals and it carried that momentum to a state championship. This time around, Hammon had to outscore its guests by seven in the second half to win. Five different Lady Warriors scored at least six points, led by 13 from Halee Morris. Kenedie Walker scored seven of her 10 in the fourth quarter. Lomega got 14 points each from Mady Meier and Courtney Fox.
| Ben Johnson
Brent Marley worked tirelessly to circulate Andrew Crow’s game film. Rejoice Christian’s head coach wanted Crow, his star running back and defensive back, to receive the attention he was due.
It finally paid off Wednesday.
Crow’s accomplishments landed in the lap of Drew Hill, director of player personnel at the University of Oklahoma. From there, it didn’t take much time for OU to extend an invitation Crow’s way.
Now Crow will head to Norman in the fall, tweeting his commitment to the Sooners on Wednesday.
“After countless phone calls from several people, mainly Coach Marley, I was able to get my film, state and accomplishments in front of Coach Hill and the staff at OU,” Crow told Skordle. “(Hill) contacted me after, and we went from there.”
Crow will serve as a walk-on for the Sooners, but it’s the goal Crow had in place all throughout his senior year at the small private school in Owasso.
“Playing at OU has always been a dream of mine,” said Crow, who rushed for 2,620 yards and 48 touchdowns his senior year. “I can’t put into words how blessed I am to be able to play at such an amazing program, and I think I’ll be able to show my skill set and make an impression when the opportunity comes.”
All of it is pretty remarkable, considering a harrowing night Crow endured in November. During the week leading up to Rejoice Christian’s Class A semifinal matchup with Christian Heritage, Crow was in a car accident that left his vehicle totaled.