District play can't get here soon enough
It's not uncommon for teams to cut their teeth on a brutal schedule to start their seasons.
Good teams will enter district play with multiple blemishes, but battle-tested. It serves them well in the "season that matters" and on into the playoffs.
This year is no exception as we've got a number of schools - large and small - who have had enough of their non-district games and are ready to get a restart of sorts...as everyone is 0-0 entering district play.
Here's a few:
Jenks (0-4) - The Trojans have received enough ink (can you have ink on the internets?), but we'll go at least one more round with them. They enter this week's game with Norman with an 0-4 for the first time in forever. Those losses came to Owasso, Bixby, Union and Arkansas' Har-Ber. Norman (0-3) will be a welcome site.
Broken Arrow (0-3) - Much the same story here, only the Indians have played just three games. Union. Southlake Carroll. Owasso. That's a brutal lineup. This week it's a trip to Yukon (2-1), which has found some life under first-year coach Jeremy Reed. Still the Millers aren't on the level of what BA has been facing. However, life in 6A-I-1 isn't all that easy. BA and Jenks will have to face off against one another next week and Westmoore - the supposed best of the west - awaits them both.
Lawton MacArhur (1-2) - Annual contenders for the 5A title went 1-1 against their Lawton counterparts and also lost to Amarillo's Tascosa. No doubt Western Heights will be a relief despite its 2-1 mark (wins over U.S. Grant and Capitol Hill).
Newcastle (0-3) - Probably not what the Racers had in mind when Casey Thompson announced his comm.....errr moved to Newcastle. The Racers are still looking to find their way after suffering a two-touchdown loss to Noble and then being manhandled by Tuttle and Blanchard. Of course, Weatherford (3-0 against subpar teams) isn't going to necessarily be an easy start to 4A-1 play.
Ada (1-2) - The Cougars are always tough to figure out, but most expected the Cougars to have more success after dropping to 4A. Their losses are to Ardmore and Carl Albert and the win against lowly Durant. They'll host unbeaten Bethany in what should be a great barometer for both teams in what could be a tight, tight 4A-2 race.
Tuttle (1-2) - Losses to Kingfisher and Plainview and the aforementioned win against Newcastle. Start off 4A-2 play at Blanchard. Told you that district could be fun.
Hennessey (0-4) - The Eagles were no strangers to starting a season 0-2 or 1-2 and then running roughshod over District 2A-1 and making a deep run into the playoffs. They had an impressive multi-year run of winning at least two playoff games come to an end in 2015. Their losses this year: OCA, Perkins, Kingfisher and Jones. That's no fun. Unfortunately, the beginning of district play isn't much kinder.They face Alva, Chisholm and Perry. The first two figure to battle it out for this year's district title. The third knocked off Hennessey a year ago. Hard as it is to imagine for a team that was in the semifinals in 2014, 0-7 is a possibility.
Davis (1-2) - The Wolves started the year with a win over Lone Grove, but have since been on the wrong end of lopsided losses to Sulphur and Heritage Hall. Atoka (0-3) is showing up at the right time.
I'm watching you...
Hooker - Don't look now, but the Bulldogs are 4-0 with three blowout wins. Granted, one was over a Kansas team and another from New Mexico, but 4-0 hasn't happened in the panhandle town in quite some time. Hooker isn't exactly a hotbed of football success, but it's not a new phenomenon. The Bulldogs have been to the playoffs the last two years and won a playoff game in 2015 (8-4 overall). Offensively, it's a balanced team with Donavan Yarbrough calling signals. He's got weapons to throw to and hand off to and has done both. He averages 211 passing yards a game and has thrown 12 TDs. But how good is Hooker? We'll know for sure in three weeks once its completed sturdy tests from Texhoma, Okeene and Thomas.
ZJ Washington, Pioneer-Pleasant Vale - ZJ's my first individual to land here and it's thanks to longtime reader - and play-by-play man extraordinaire - Perry Thomas. Thomas called Pioneer's 64-14 win over Seiling in which Washington was dominant...although you didn't see his name pop up on many "player of the week" polls. Washington ran for 274 yards (16.1 yards a touch) and six touchdowns. He added a punt return for a score and also picked off four passes.The Mustangs are going to need much more of that with the likes of Laverne (Class B No. 3) and Geary the next two weeks and top-ranked Shattuck in about a month.
Cashion - I'd about counted Cashion out after it mustered one score in a 7-0 win against Crossings Christian, then was beaten by three scores by OCA. However, Lynn Shackelford's team is starting to look like the Cashion we've grown accustomed to with a 41-14 win at Mooreland (nothing much to brag about) and then a 48-30 victory against 3A's Prague (now that raises an eyebrow). In that game, Griffin Lamb started to look more like his predecessors at quarterback (really, Shack's had an embarrassment of riches at the position) as he threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns. Sixteen of his 21 receptions went to Seth Brown. 16! The wideout accumulated a ridiculous 329 yards and four touchdowns through the air. While we don't expect that every week, if those two can continue to play well together, the 'Cats will be a tough out in the playoffs. Of course, over the next three weeks they'll get massive tests from Morrison and Crescent, so that kind of production might be needed after all.
I see you...
Bethany - Take it from me, the Bronchos' Payton Harrell and Sam Brandt can go. Bethany knocked off Kingfisher 30-13 last Friday night (it was a 16-13 game with just over 6:00 left when Kingfisher missed a field goal that would have tied it). In that contest, Harrell ran for 257 yards from his tailback spot and Brandt 119 while playing quarterback. That's 376 yards rushing. As a team, Bethany had 375 total yards of offense (for the mathematically challenged, that means the Bronchos lost minus-1 yard on all other plays). We'll find out a lot more about Bethany as it travels to Ada this week, but we do know the Bronchos can win close games as each of its three wins (Marlow, Pauls Valley) have come down to the fourth quarter. Brandt and Harrell are fantastic go-to players.
If you haven't read about or seen the scuffle between a pair of youth coaches in the Tulsa area, you can see the Tulsa World's story here, complete with a video of the fight at the bottom.
In short, two coaches from the same team were arguing over playing time. One appears to attack the other and the throw-down is on.
Obviously there's no place for this in sports, much less in front of a bunch of third graders. It goes without saying.
But let me take this in a different direction, because as I was reading the story it lays out why the east is so dominant in large school football.
First of all, let me state the No. 1 reason large school football championships reside in the Tulsa area is because those school chose - and continue to choose - to not split. If Union were three schools - or even two - it wouldn't be the dominant force it is now. Same goes for Jenks. Same goes for Broken Arr.....oh, wait. They can't win it despite being the largest school in the state.
Point is, if Edmond had one school, or Norman or Moore, there would be a lot more parity.
And while I know every area has organized youth football, it's NOTHING like what they've got going on in Tulsa. The Indian National Football Conference (INFC) is huge up there and that's where the seeds are planted for school championships.
But go back and look at the story. The INFC has a commissioner, which is expected. Then there's the Union Youth Football Association (which basically means each school has its own separate association), which has its own president. And that association has a third-grade representative, which means they break it down to get organization on that level, which doesn't even include the actual coaches.
They have their act together up there. It's a machine and by the time these kids get to junior high and high school, they're ready to "step in and step up."