Coming up next….Number one ranked teams get plenty of attention as the fans rush to drink the Kool-Aid and boast the success of their team. Muskogee and Wagoner are two such communities with plenty of reasons to cheer for their football teams. But remember, its still just week one or two if teams played on zero-week. VYPE Plus editors Bill Huddleston and Nick Hampton share their opinions on area teams. Are they right or just playing devil’s advocates?
ARE THE ROUGHERS AS GOOD AS THE HYPE
Written by Bill Huddleston
Photos by K Henry Sports Productions
After their first two games of the 2023 season, the Muskogee Roughers remain the top ranked team in Class 6A-II. Following a 57-0 dismantling of the Putnam City Pirates, coach Travis Hill’s squad continues to prove this year’s offense is explosive with a cast of talented athletes. Kayden “Big Play” McGee (pictured above) produced highlight reel moments by totaling 124 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns including a 4th down catch of 35 yards for a score and capped off the night with a 55-yard kick return for a third six point result. Jayden Swanson finessed his way thru Putnam City defenders for an 81-yard thriller for a score and Ondraye Beasley’s 55-yard dash for six points was also electrifying. On the night, Muskogee totaled almost 600 yards of offense including Jamarian Ficklin passing for 309 yards completing 12 of 19 passes.
BUT…when defensively challenged by opponents like they will meet this week when the Class 5A defending state champion Midwest City Carl Albert Titans visit Rougher Village, can the Roughers produce the same kind of big plays or be consistent in their execution to move the chains and finish in the end zone?
I don’t want to be misunderstood; Muskogee is a very good team that showed improvement in several areas of play posting the shutout in the road win. Travis Hill agrees. “Shutouts are always nice and even harder to come by these days with the new style of offensive football.”
In last Friday’s win, the defensive front line was dominating against the run and passing game of the Pirates as Muskogee’s defense limited their opponent to just 129 yards total offense while getting off the field by allowing just 2-of-10 third down completions. On the night, linebackers Tim Moore and Treyveon Houston joined forces with defensive linemen Vernon Pepiakitah, Anthony Watson and Teyon Brewer to control the Putnam City offense.
In what certainly will be the number one ranked game of the week in Oklahoma when the two top-ranked teams do battle, I agree with coach Hill that Muskogee must continue to take steps to improve. “We have to improve in our consistency of play. You can’t have one great play followed by one bad play; and we still have too many penalties. Please understand me, we are improving but being inconsistent won’t let us achieve our goals.”
Coaches will often say that teams show their biggest improvements between games one and two. The Roughers will need to find that same level of improvement this week in preparation for the “night they played the Titans.”
DO THE BULLDOGS HAVE A CHAMPIONSHIP PEDIGREE AGAIN IN 2023?
Written by Bill Huddleston
Wagoner went into last week’s battle against Coweta with a chip on their shoulder after losing to the Tigers in last year’s season opener. The game plan and resulting efforts showed that the Bulldogs are ready to defend their Class 4A state title by posting a 24-7 win and reclaiming the Wagoner County Championship traveling trophy.
Wagoner coaches implemented a few position changes with the defensive lineup as the move of Witt Edwards from safety to defensive end and Alex Shieldnight from the edge to nose guard seemed to wreck the Tigers ability to move the football. You could say with the skill set of the ‘Dawgs defense forced Coweta to “pick your poison” as Wagoner eradicated any ground game holding Coweta to minus-1 yard rushing and only 86 yards through the air.
“Alex had another good night with four sacks and so did Bryce Steel,” said Wagoner coach Dale Condict. “Bryce made a big TFL (tackle for loss) on a fourth down play in the third quarter. He also finished with two sacks and a big interception.”
Matson Watson had a big night for the Bulldogs in the season opening win with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half and quarterback Kale Charboneau had more than 200 yards offense including a 16-24 performance passing the ball.
Has anyone said these Dawgs are more than just good?
“I’m pleased with our overall effort and certainly glad to get a quality win to open the season,” said Condict. “But Friday’s game showed us that we still have several areas to clean up and improve on. We had way too many penalties and our O-line still needs to develop.”
The Bulldogs remain on the road this week traveling to Tahlequah on Friday night.
One game doesn’t make a season but the way in which Wagoner went about their business in game one coupled with their expectation for continued improvement, the 2023 version of Wagoner football appears to up to the challenge to defend its state championship title this season.
WHEN THE NUMBER “O” IS A BIG NUMBER
Written by Nick Hampton
When the crowd at Hornet Stadium shouted DEFENSE, DEFENSE Friday night, the team answered as the Hornets pitched a shutout with a 21-0 blanking of the Class 5A Edison Eagles in their season opener. Coach David Blevins told me that the Hornets executed a good defensive game plan as he noted some individual performances.
“Inside linebacker Brayson Parker had a big game with several tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Parker Ireland had a pick, and our defensive line was dominant. On offense quarterback Dawson Fields (pictured above) threw a 40-yard touchdown pass and ran one in from 18 yards out and after the Ireland interception, Gage Roland scored from three yards outs to finish out our scoring,” said Blevins. “We missed a couple of chances on offense, or the margin might have been bigger.”
The early season scrimmages and even this game to some extent show that putting points on the board might be a challenge for an inexperienced Hornet offensive unit so I’ve got to think that the efforts of the defense will be vitally important for the Hornets to be successful early in the season as the young Hilldale offense continues to find it’s footing. The Hornets continue their battles against the Tulsa urban schools this week in their first road trip as they play Tulsa Hale.
A COMING-OF-AGE STORY
Written by Nick Hampton
Shaking off a spanking in their season opener at the hands of the defending Class 2A state champion Washington Warriors, the Vian Wolverines bounced back with a 35-27-win Friday over archrival Eufaula to even their record at 1-1. In preseason, coach Gary Willis told me that the expectation was that sophomores would be the main offensive contributors for Vian but maybe not right away as we saw in the Washington game. But against the Ironheads, sophomores Masyn Wright and Draighton Fletcher (pictured above) showed the promise of what lay ahead for Wolverine fans.
“Masyn and Draighton both had good games in their first starts at quarterback and running back,” said Willis. “Masyn ran the opening kickoff back for a score and Draighton had two touchdowns.”
The Wolverine defense also had their shining moments in this always hard-fought game. After a Vian turnover on a field goal attempt, Tristan Wylie had a sack in the end zone for a safety and after another Wolverine turnover gave the Ironheads another chance, Nathan Creasy came through with an interception at the two-yard line.
Vian continues its brutal non-district schedule this week as they travel to meet another top 10 ranked opponent facing Lincoln Christian this Friday. I’ve got to say that this is probably the toughest non-district schedule anyone in the state faces but in the end and as the young talented sophomores gain valuable reps and the offense adjusts to a more run-oriented attack than in the past, these bumps along with way will pay dividends when the Wolverines begin district play in a couple of weeks.
“THE MOST FUN WIN I’VE EVER BEEN AROUND”
Written by Nick Hampton
Photo by Hasler Productions
That’s the way that Fort Gibson coach Ryan Nolan described the Tigers 22-19 win over Berryhill Friday night.
“It was a great win and one we really needed as a team,” said Nolan.
Things looked ominous for the Tigers as the game started. Starting quarterback Logan Bethel was sidelined in concussion protocol and starting senior defensive back Jaiden Johnson was out with illness. But senior Parker Lockhart stepped in at quarterback and two-way starter Judd Rudd had a career game to help lead the Tigers to a nail-biting win to even their record at 1-1.
With the Tigers clinging to a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, Berryhill recaptured the lead on a pick-six by their defense with about six minutes to play. But at this point, the Tigers found another high point in the game according to Nolan.
“We had some leaders show up in this game when we were behind, and they stepped up and looked at the team and said ‘let’s go win this’. That was something we’ve lacked, and I hope it carries over the rest of the season.”
Fort Gibson mounted a 19-play drive, overcoming two fourth-and-long dilemmas that ran the clock down inside a minute to play when Brelynn Macomb took it in from five yards out to put the Tigers ahead and a two-point conversion added some cushion to the final count. The defense came through as they knocked down a hail-Mary pass in the end zone at the end of the game and were big in the first half as they turned the Chiefs way twice in the red zone to keep it close at the half. Rudd, the junior running back rushed for 91 yards and touchdown, had three receptions for 40 yards while on defense he recorded 15 tackles, as well as two broken up passes and a fumble recovery. Macomb carried for 55 yards and scored the winning touchdown while wide receiver Donnie Cox had 95 yards on nine receptions and also threw for a touchdown on a double pass play. The Tigers will welcome an open week this week to get Bethel and Johnson back to health before traveling to Class 5A Glenpool in two weeks. I really like this win for the Tigers at a time when they needed a boost with a fairly inexperienced team. It’s a great feeling to go into an off week with that kind of momentum and I expect to see the Tigers attack Glenpool with a renewed sense of purpose.