Next Up: VYPE Plus editor Nick Hampton examines this week’s top games as the regular season races toward the playoff with the outcome of week-8 contests blowing away some of the clouds as to who will make the postseason.
THREE REASONS THE MUSKOGEE ROUGHERS WILL NOTCH A WIN OVER TULSA WASHINGTON
Experience. The Roughers are senior heavy at most of the places that count and talented at the places they don’t have seniors. Muskogee counts 13 seniors in their starting lineup with talented juniors in most of the skill positions while the Hornets are counting on 13 underclassmen to get the job done.
Offense. Muskogee is averaging 55 points a game, the most in Class 6A-II while the Hornets have struggled on offense this year and are averaging fewer than 25 points a game. It all begins in the offensive line where the Roughers return four starters from last year’s state semifinals team and though the Hornets do have some returning players in the line, they don’t match up to Muskogee’s talent.
Speed. One of the traits that Washington has always possessed that has helped them be successful is team speed. But it’s just not as evident for the Hornets this year and without the speed they become a mediocre team as their 2-5 record would attest. Muskogee, on the other hand, has plentiful speed especially on defense at the linebacker spots where the Roughers lateral pursuit keeps opponents from getting to the outside while the potent D-line makes it hard to move between the tackles. Let’s not overlook the Roughers defense owns a current streak of 14 consecutive quarters without allowing the opponent to score.
This series is legendary for hard fought, intense games in the past. But this year the Roughers are flying high, and the Hornets don’t have their usual sting. Muskogee’s 20 seniors play their final regular season game at Rougher Village and are ready to enjoy the conflict.
Nick’s pick: Muskogee 44 Tulsa Washington 13
Other games of interest in our area are in District 4A-4 starting with Poteau at Sallisaw. The Pirates moved into the number one spot in Class 4A ahead of Wagoner this week and they have sailed the high seas to pretty easy wins all season long despite having some key players injured. But their game with the Black Diamonds might be their toughest contest in district play so far.
Brandon Tyler has done wonders in getting Sallisaw to believe they can win and have a 5-2 record to prove it after going o-for-the-season last year. Poteau is undefeated on the season at 7-0 but still has their toughest district game ahead of them next week against Ada. The Black Diamonds are hungry and have their sites set on a playoff game. They stand alone in third place and have seemingly less-challenging games ahead of them against Fort Gibson and Madill after this week. This could be a trap game for the Pirates if they think too much about next week’s visit from Ada and while I’d like to see the Sallisaw Cinderella season continue, I think the Pirates will prevail and let some air out of the Black Diamond balloon.
Nick’s pick: Poteau 32 Sallisaw 22
Hilldale and Fort Gibson are the other two teams in the district that are hanging on to playoff hopes. The Hornets have to make the long bus trip to Broken Bow this week with both teams holding 1-3 district records tied for fifth place behind Fort Gibson at 2-2. Fort Gibson travels to fourth-ranked Ada this week and a win is imperative if the Tigers are to stay on the prowl for a playoff spot with Sallisaw facing them next week. A win for Hilldale would put them closer to the driver’s seat with Madill up next week but a loss would put them in dire straits of missing out. There are a lot of things that can happen over the next two weeks but it would appear that a loss by the Tigers would all but knock them out unless they can come back and beat Sallisaw and set up a showdown in the season finale in the Battle for The Rock against Hilldale.
Nick’s Picks: Hilldale 21 Broken Bow 12
Ada 40 Fort Gibson 10
That leaves us with two games that have major playoff implications for the teams involved.
BERRYHILL AT CHECOTAH
Berryhill is a team that has played up and down this season. Following a season opening loss to Fort Gibson, the Chiefs have rebounded well with their only losses coming to ranked teams Lincoln Christian and Cushing and they are just a game behind the eighth-ranked Wildcats in the district standings. A win by Checotah would pretty much assure them of a second-place finish in the district and a home playoff game. But if Berryhill should pull off the win, they would have their fate in their own hands for that number two spot. Both teams will have to play a fast-rising seventh-ranked Stigler team in the last two weeks and Berryhill also has a game against an always dangerous Seminole team while the Wildcats are off next week before facing Stigler in the regular season finale. With that home playoff game luring the Wildcats like a limping ground hog, I like their chances to go all out and knock off the Chiefs.
Nick’s Picks: Checotah 28 Berryhill 21
GORE AT PANAMA
The tenth-ranked Pirates reportedly suffered some bumps and bruises as well as an ego bruising in last week’s loss to Central Sallisaw and this week face Panama with both teams tied for the number two spot in the district. But one thing working in Gore’s favor is the schedule. The Razorbacks still have to play Central next week and then close against Haskell while the Pirates finish with Haskell next week and then Porter. So if Panama wins this game and things fall according to plan, both teams would finish the district with 5-2 marks and Panama would take second place by virtue of the head-to-head win. This game may hinge on just how beat up the Pirates are but with that kind of incentive, I expect Gore to do what they have done all season long: find a way to win (except one time). But I wouldn’t be surprised either to see the Razorbacks pull off the win especially playing at home.