With the playoffs underway this week, we thought we would take the opportunity to deep dive into a couple of what should be the more interesting matchups on this week’s edition of the Games of The Week.
CLASS 3A: VIAN AT EUFAULA
Probably the most interesting game in our area this week will be a rematch of what has become a heated rivalry in Class 2A between Vian and Eufaula. These teams met early in the season as is the tradition with Vian coming out on top 35-27.
“We’ve made them our first game of the season for several years now because I always like to start off with a tough game to get a read on where we are and what we need to do better,” said Eufaula head coach Larry Newton Jr. “”It’s one of those games where both sides are physical and they’re going to run the football right at us and throw every now and then so it will be time for our kids to step up and see how they’ve improved since that first meeting.”
Playing the Wolverines brings some unique challenges for a defense according to Newton.
“When you play Vian you have to be ready to play fast and consistently,” said the Ironhead coach. “They run the zone read so well that it’s hard to prepare for them defensively and our kids have to understand that they have to be ready right now or Vian will shoot the gap on you and be gone.”
Both teams had to face the 2023 season replacing some key skill players. For the Ironheads, they returned most of their linemen and talented receiver Kaden Rice (pictured above). Replacing All State quarterback Luke Adcock would not be easy, but sophomore Ledger Folsom has come along nicely according to Newton. The Ironheads also had to do a makeover of their defensive secondary and they’ve been getting the job done there with sophomores and freshmen for the most part.
For the Wolverines, they had to replace talented quarterback Diego Ramos, but they knew they had an up-and-comer in sophomore Masyn Wright (pictured above) and running back Draighton Fletcher. Wright took a little time to learn the quarterback spot and has relied on his legs to rush for 674 yards and 12 touchdowns while passing for 454 yards and Fletcher has rushed for 834 yards and 14 TDs.
“Masyn is a natural athlete, and we feel fortunate to have seen him develop. He’s still working on improving his passing but as a runner I’ll take him over anybody in Class 2A,” said Wolverine head coach Gary Willis.
The Ironheads finished second in their district behind Idabel and will host this week’s game. Vian’s 6-4 mark is a little misleading in that they lost Wright for a game and a half at the end of the season after he received two controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Prague and was ejected in the third quarter of that game which Vian lost in overtime. Then he had to sit out the following week in the Wolverines 38-35 upset loss to Sequoyah Tahlequah.
“Coach Newton and I are good friends, and we have lots of friends in Eufaula,” said Willis. “But once the teams take the field, those friendships are out the window for a few hours and it’s a tough, competitive battle.”
Larry Newton has never beaten Vian in the time he’s been the Ironhead coach and thinks it would be sweet if he could pull off the win in the playoffs. But I think the Wolverines have too much firepower with Wright and Fletcher, especially since Wright has had a forced week off to rest that is nice this time of year.
VYPE PLUS PICK: VIAN 22 EUFAULA 20
CLASS 4A: SALLISAW AT CUSHING
Another game we’re watching with interest finds the Sallisaw Black Diamonds traveling to Cushing in a Class 4A showdown. Regardless of the outcome, making it to the playoffs is a great tribute to the job that coach Brandon Tyler has done in turning a program around that was 1-19 the past two season to a 6-4 mark this year-a record that could have been even better according to Tyler.
“We lost two games by one point, lost by just seven to Ada and threw two interceptions at the goal line against Poteau and we ended up losing by 15,” said Tyler who has had highly successful tenures at Vian and Gore. “It’s been a good year. Our coaches and players bought into the program from the time we arrived last March. We got bigger and stronger in the weight room over the summer, but we still have a long way to go. But the school and community are fired up this week and we should have a good following at Cushing.”
The Cushing Tigers come in with an 8-2 record led by quarterback John Hilligoss.
“Cushing is a tradition rich program that played in the state finals last year and even though they graduated 23 seniors, the tradition of the program enables them to just reload with new talented faces that know how to win,” said Tyler. “Their quarterback has thrown for over 2000 yards and they have three big strong receivers that will really test our secondary. But I think our coaches have put together a good game plan and we just have to go out and execute it.”
VYPE PLUS PICK: CUSHING 28 SALLISAW 21
Looking at other areas teams seeing playoff action this week, Wagoner and Poteau, both undefeated, ranked one and two in Class 4A and district champs, should have relatively easy games against Broken Bow and Miami respectively. In Class B a pair of 8-2 teams will square off as Webbers Falls travels to Welch. In Class A, Gore, which is another team in our area that had a great season after losing a lot of talent last year, will host Fairland. And in Class 3A two area teams will be trying to deck the Halls this week on the road as Checotah is at Holland Hall and Stigler travels to Cascia Hall.
May the best teams win and advance!