Coming Up: Muskogee Area VYPE-Plus editors Nick Hampton and Bill Huddleston breakdown this week’s Top-5 games to watch on Friday night.
THREE REASONS WHY CHECOTAH “MIGHT TURN THE TABLES” ON EUFAULA THIS YEAR
It’s been five years since the Checotah Wildcats have won the long-standing McIntosh County rivalry against the Eufaula Ironheads, but this may be the year the tide turns as these teams hook it up for the 108th time on Friday.
The Wildcats are 2-1 on the season with lopsided wins over East Central and Haskell while falling to Sequoyah Claremore. The Ironheads are 1-1 after running roughshod over Sequoyah Tahlequah last week but falling in their season opener to Vian.
Here are some reasons I think this could be the year for Checotah.
- Experience at the skill positions. Checotah returns quarterback Jacob Jones who threw for nearly 1500 yards last year and he has over half that total so far this year in just three games with a 72 percent completion rate. A lot of those completions have gone to VYPE TOP 100 receiver Elijah Thomas who already has seven touchdowns to his credit. The Ironheads lost a lot of offense to graduation last year and though they have talent like Kaden Rice and Peter Lee they’re still finding their way on offense.
- Hunger. The seniors on this Wildcat team have taken it on the chin from the Ironheads the past couple of years in particular and I’m sure they’ve had this game on their minds for some time as a chance to get a measure of revenge in their last year.
- Home field advantage. After having had to play at Eufaula the past two years (due to problems with turf installation at Checotah’s field last year), the Wildcats relish the chance to show off to the home crowd this year and showcase their talent.
“We’ve got our first five games at home this year including this one and that sure makes it a lot easier to prepare,” said Wildcat head coach Zac Ross. “Eufaula has good experience and size in their line and they’re always very physical, but I feel pretty good about our chances this year.”
The Wildcats have the guys that can put points on the board so the question will be is their defense up to the challenge of stopping Eufaula?
- Eufaula is strong defensively but still searching for answers to a consistent offense. Offense wins games but defense wins championship.
- The ‘Cats have a chip on their shoulder plus have “highlight reel” playmakers.
- It’s Oklahoma’s oldest continual rivalry matchup where the team with the fewest turnovers usually wins. And to some fans who refuse to wear anything but blue or maroon colored clothing, this game is just as important as winning a state championship.
Nick’s pick: Checotah 21 Eufaula 15
Bill’s pick: Eufaula 14 Checotah 13 (Missed 2-point conversion for the win fails)
WILL GROVE HAVE WAGONER’S NUMBER AGAIN THIS YEAR?
The last two seasons this battle between the Bulldogs and Ridgerunners has been a nail biter. Two years ago, Wagoner pulled out a two-point win but last year Grove put one of only three blemishes on Wagoner’s state championship record with a 28-20 win.
To answer the question above, I give it a resounding NO and here’s why.
1.You can bet that this game has been circled on the top ranked Bulldogs calendar since last fall and that coach Dale Condict will certainly be reminding his troops about what happened last year all this week. And there are a lot of differences in the two teams from last year to this year. Revenge is a great motivator and that will work to the advantage of Wagoner this week.
2. Grove, ranked 10th in Class 5A, is missing a couple of key pieces from last year’s team that lost in the Class 5A state semifinals. Namely quarterback Carson Trimble who threw for nearly 2500 yards last season and running back Emmanuel Crawford who rushed for 2300 yards. They had no trouble with Miami in their opener but had to battle in a shootout to beat Jay last week. Meanwhile the Bulldogs return many of the same guys who took them to the Class 4A title last year and have won their first two contests fairly easily.
3. It’s ‘the home opener for Wagoner so the crowd will be really pumped up as they see all of the new changes at Odom Field and enjoy their team in the comfort of home. The home field is always an advantage but maybe even more so for the Bulldogs this year. From top to bottom I’ve just got to think that Wagoner has the advantage in experienced personnel in the skill positions with the return of Kale Charboneau at quarterback and a senior heavy offensive line.
- Four reasons why Wagoner wins? D – O – G – S D -Dominant defense, O-Offensive talent through the air, G -Ground game that can be patient or strike with big play, S-Speed and plenty of it.
Nick’s pick: Wagoner 35 Grove 20
Bill’s pick: Wagoner 42 Grove 14
DID SOMEONE GET THE TAG NUMBER OF THAT TRUCK?
Will the Hilldale Hornets, who break into the Class 4A top ten this week at the 10th spot, be asking themselves the question after the Claremore Zebras roll into Hornet stadium Friday. After squeaking out a one-point win over 6A-II Bartlesville in their season opener, Claremore blasted Oologah last week and are ranked 7th in Class 5A this week.
The combination of returning quarterback Braxton Etheridge who has passed for 517 yards and thrown six touchdowns this year and running back Micah Teel will be a handful for the young and inexperienced Hornet defense which hasn’t really been tested in two opening wins over Tulsa Public School opponents. While the Hilldale offense has been coming along nicely, they’ll be hard pressed to top the Zebras in a shootout which is what it will take to win. Claremore won this game 27-10 last year and the Hornets had a lot more talent in the skill spots than they do this season.
“Claremore is physical, and they have a couple of speedsters we’ll need to slow down,” said Hornet coach David Blevins. “We’ll try to match their physicality and not turn the ball over. This will be our toughest test of the season so far.”
BILL’S TWO CENTS:
Experience and physicality spoil the youthful Hornets hopes to go 3-0. Hilldale will continue to show improvement from week two but can’t match all the strengths of the Zebras except for the chance to “CASH” in on a couple of long range field goals off the toe of Cash Schiller.
Nick’s pick: Claremore 40 Hilldale 14
Bill’s pick: Claremore 35 Hilldale 13
SCOOP-ANOTHER RANKED OPPONENT IN THE PIRATES SIGHTS
The Poteau Pirates face their second ranked opponent in as many weeks as they host the Chandler Lions Friday. The Pirates are ranked third in Class 4A and the Lions are number 7 in Class 2A, both are off to 2-0 starts, and both feature talent in key positions.
Here’s three solid reasons I think the Pirates will prevail here.
- The road is no fun. Let’s face it-it’s a pretty lengthy road trip for the Lions to go all the way to Poteau (although the Pirates handled the long trip to Metro Christian last week pretty well). I’m a big believer in home field advantage especially in the smaller towns of Oklahoma where football is THE game on Friday nights.
- The Lions return quarterback Alec Jackson but graduated standout running back Casmen Hill while the Pirates feature the Swiss army knife of players in Dax Collins, who has a pair of touchdowns on offense and is one of the leaders on defense with 11 tackles, along with nine other returning starters from a team that made the state semifinals last year and they have adapted well so far to the loss of star running back Jackson Sommers who injured a collarbone in preseason. The Pirate defense is giving up an average of just 14 points a game so far.
- The Pirates win over Class 3A’s third ranked Metro Christian last week was impressive and I think speaks to the we’re-on-a-mission mentality of this team. I think Poteau has an edge in the skill spots and certainly in overall team experience and I look for them to continue what they hope will be another shot on the big stage in December against Wagoner.
Run – Pass – Repeat! With a aggressive defense that’s equal to if not stronger than the offense, Poteau will once again chant their rally cry #WETSU in a final non-district victory.
Nicks pick: Poteau 28 Chandler 16
Bill’s pick: Poteau 31 Chandler 13
DON’T LOOK NOW BUT HERE COME THE PANTHERS
Like their namesake, the Stigler Panthers are quietly sneaking up on the rest of Class 3A as they moved into the number 5 spot in this week’s rankings with a 2-0 mark as they host Stilwell Friday night.
“The rankings have never been very important to me. We’ve been ranked that high before and lost so I don’t really look at any of that,” said Panther head coach Cade Shearwood.
Though they’re young overall, Stigler does have strong talent and leadership at the positions where it counts with quarterback Mcade Peery and running back Mason Jones. The Panther have opened with wins over Class 4A opponent Sallisaw and 5A foe Catoosa while the Indians are also 2-0 having dispatched Keys and Roland.
“I’d like to see us clean up some of youthful mistakes we’re making and put teams away when we should and not let them hang around,” said Shearwood. “Stilwell two-platoons and they have athletes on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a wide receiver (Tray Chuculate) who’s had two nice games and a quarterback (Juan Martinez) who can really throw the ball,”
Chuculate, a VYPE TOP 100 pick this year, has 126 yards and two touchdown receptions so far. Limiting the Indians big play potential while holding on to the football themselves are keys to a win according to Shearwood. This could be an interesting game but playing at home after a week off I think gives the edge to the Panthers.
The Indians are quickly erasing their past shortcomings with a solid start to the 2023 season anchored by two-platoon depth and the ability to move the ball on the ground as well as through the air.
The energy of their first two win has Stilwell supported by a newfound level of energy and expectations for success. BUT, Stigler is playing in front of their home fans with a retooling lineup of experience that plays sound offensive and defensive football. Also, remember Panthers coach Cade Shearwood, like his high school coach Chris Risenhoover, keeps the unexpected play neatly folded in his back pocket and the Panthers ready to create Panther magic when necessary. Will an end around option pass for six points prove the difference?
Nick’s pick: Stigler 32 Stilwell 22
Bill’s pick: Stigler 27 Stilwell 21