Up next – VYPE Plus Muskogee area editors Nick Hampton and Bill Huddleston weigh-in on who wins as the regular season enters the final four weeks.
WILL POTEAU REMAIN UNDEFEATED AND REACH THE STATE FINALS?
This is really a case of one question answering the other to some degree. If the Pirates remain undefeated, they will make the state finals, so let’s split this up and look at the first part and ask if Poteau can remain undefeated?
The answer to this is more than likely yes but there is one big obstacle in the way: THE ADA COUGARS.
These teams meet later this month in Poteau and both will likely still be unbeaten. Both have shown the ability to put points on the board averaging around 30 points a game, but the Cougars have the edge on defense giving up only 6.5 points a game with three shutouts including two 7-0 wins while the Pirates are giving up just over 10 points a game with two shutouts. So far, the ‘Cougs have relied on the running of Kolten Carlock and the quarterbacking of Brock Boyles. TU-commit Dax Collins has been the main cog for the Pirates who have used a running back-by-committee approach to the ground game. A wildcard in this scenario might be if the Pirates get VYPE TOP 100 running back Jackson Sommers back from injury. Even though Ada has played a little tougher schedule, expect the Pirates playing at Costner Stadium to stay unbeaten.
That brings us to the second part of the question about the state finals. If they get by Ada, there are several obstacles on the way to the finals including Blanchard or Tuttle, and Clinton or Weatherford not to mention Wagoner. Like the Pirates, all four of these teams are playing great ball right now. Can Poteau sail their ship the choppy and sometimes stormy waters of Class 4A playoffs? Time will tell but if Sommers is not able to return and make some major contributions, Poteau will need stronger results from its passing game and rock solid defense to play for gold. But, with Greg Werner as captain of the ship, the Pirates ‘Win the Day’ approach will keep the compass pointing in the right direction for a game somewhere in December.
DOES WAGONER HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO REPEAT AS STATE CHAMPIONS
Without a doubt the answer to this question is YES
Certainly the talent is there for the Bulldogs. Junior Kale Charboneau has been even better than expected this year. He has connected on two of every three passes he throws for 1266 yards and is the leading rusher with 348 yards and a total of 16 touchdowns.
Witt Edwards (pictured above), who just verbally committed to Vanderbilt for college ball, and Matson Swanson have combined for 54 receptions and 637 yards while on defense Charboneau again leads the way at linebacker with 58 tackles followed by another high level talent with several D-I offers in junior Alex Shieldnight, who has set the school record for career sacks and junior Bryce Steel who are right behind with 45 and 44 tackles respectively.
Defense wins championships and that has always been a strength of Dale Condict-led teams. This year the Bulldogs are giving up only 10 points a game and that defensive prowess really showed last week as they held a surprisingly stubborn Cushing team scoreless in the second half to eak out a one-point win. So did the offense falter or was Cushing just that good to slow down the Wagoner juggernaut offense that has averaged 27 points a game?
The schedule- but here’s where the going gets tougher for Wagoner. Keep in mind that as good as they’ve been, they still share the district lead with upstart McLain which is 5-1 on the season and they host the Titans in a couple of weeks. If they get by that roadblock, they should be good until the second round of the playoffs when they could face another tough opponent, Tuttle in all likelihood, and then in the semis a possible matchup with Clinton. Despite all of that, the Bulldogs certainly gained a sense of confidence with the unexpectedly close win over Cushing and they’ve sure got what it takes to make it back-to-back titles.
TOP REASONS WHY MUSKOGEE IS ON TRACK TO WIN THE GOLD BALL IN 2023
There’s a definite expectation of not only practicing football on Thanksgiving weekend but also plans for playing football in December for the Roughers as Muskogee looks to take the next step in the postseason to win the school’s first state championship since 1986. And, given the productivity through their first six games, Muskogee not only deserves its number-1 ranking heading into the final four games of the regular season but has earned the right to be considered a favorite to win the Class 6A-II state championship. Here are three reasons why to expect the Roughers to play for the gold ball with one question that will play out in the next four weeks.
OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER – The Roughers ability to score is apparent having scored almost at will by averaging 53.0 points per game. Junior quarterback Jamarian Ficklin (pictured above) is the field general who has completed 70-percent of his pass attempts including 20 touchdowns by spreading the scoring throws to nine different receivers led by Kayden McGee, who with seven receptions for scores is averaging 105 yards per game. Ficklin is also the leader of Muskogee’s ground attack that now averages 203.2 yards per game. Muskogee’s first unit offense has scored on each of its last 20 possessions in action the past three weeks.
STRONG IN THE TRENCHES – The brute strength and physicality of Muskogee’s offensive and defensive front lines continue to wear down opponents. The O-line anchored by a pair of 3-year veterans Brayd’n Henry and Vernon Pepiakitah playing along side 6-7, 285-pound TCU commit Wes Harvey, 6-3, 300-lb Kaleb Huston and 6-3, 265-lb Teyon Brewer form a solid protection pocket for Ficklin as well as opening running lanes. The defensive front which consists of Pepiakitah, Brewer plus Anthony Watson and Parker Pellet have recorded double-digit sack totals while limiting opponents ground games.
SOUND SECONDARY LIMITS OPPONENTS’ SCORING CHANCES– A trio of fast and physical linebackers including Treyveon Houston, Koda Barnoski and Tim Moore along with a defensive backfield anchored by Deonn Bowler the second level of the Roughers defense has been able to secure stops with three-and-out series to get the ball back to the high powered offense.
SCHEDULE TO TEST MUSKOGEE – the Roughers will need to continue to prove their ability to win on the road during the last four weeks of the regular season. Having won seven of eight games away from Rougher Village since the opener in 2022, Muskogee must now play three of their final four games on the road including trips to Bartlesville and Stillwater who are currently tied with identical 3-0 records in district play.
CAN THE GORE PIRATES SHIP SAIL THE REGULAR SEASON UNDEFEATED AGAIN?
There’s a winning culture that continues to grow in the small Sequoyah County community as the Pirates entering the 2023 campaign had won 60 games the past six years. And despite graduating 21 seniors from last year’s team that reached the Class A state finals coupled with a coaching change as Gore alum Brandon Ellis returned to his alma mater, the winning approach to playing football remains contagious.
Offensively and defensively Gore has been dominant through the first six games of the year outscoring the opponent by a 247-41 point margin. Tate Brooksher (pictured above) tops the stat charts as a run-pass dual threat who has totaled 21 scores while rushing for 494 yards and completing 71-percent of his passes for 826 yards. Rounding out Gore’s triple-threat offensive talents is Hunter McGee has totaled 687 yards of offense and Bladin McCartney has rushed for 405 yards on the ground. As is the case with most teams in Class A and especially with such a young but talented lineup that includes four freshmen and a pair of sophomores, staying healthy is a must.
Gore must take care of its business on the road the final weeks of the regular season in order to remain without a loss. After a 3-0 beginning to play in district A-7 competition including last Friday’s 37-22 win over Pocola, the Pirates will play three of its final four contests away from home with this Friday’s encounter at Central Sallisaw perhaps the most stern test.
Among the other teams creating excitement and playoff possibilities are the Black Diamonds of Sallisaw who after going 1-19 the past two years have discovered that the sermons of new head coach Brandon Tyler have the right message to bring Sallisaw back into the playoff picture in district 4A-4. With only four games left in the race to the postseason, the Black Diamonds are 4-2 on the year and more importantly 2-1 in district play and will encounter a schedule including Hilldale, Poteau, Fort Gibson and Madill where they should be considered the favorite in at least three of those games.