The scrimmage portion of schedules began last week as football teams throughout the area took the field for the first time against someone other than themselves.
Below is a team-by-team breakdown with top performers, players who surprised, and thoughts from each head coach on their team’s performance.
Tahlequah opened against Collinsville Friday, Aug. 18 at Doc Wadley Stadium in Tahlequah. The Tigers, who advanced to the playoffs for a program record ninth straight year in 2022 under head coach Brad Gilbert, were led offensively by quarterback Cash McAlvain, and receivers Beckett Robinson, Race Stopp and JJ Antwine.
McAlvain, who is now Tahlequah’s starter behind center following an offseason season-ending injury to Brody Younger, was impressive against the Cardinals. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 197 yards and five touchdowns.
Robinson, the team’s leading returner in both receptions and receiving yards and a VYPE Top 100 selection, had a pair of catches, both for scores, for 82 yards. Stopp, a senior, closed with six catches for 86 yards and two TDs, and Antwine had two grabs for 29 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, the Tigers were led by linebackers Jayden Moore, Brayden Northington and Jacob Morrison and Stopp.
“They showed up and made some plays,” Gilbert said.
Northington, a VYPE Top 100 pick, finished his junior campaign with 61 tackles, nine tackles for losses and one interception. Moore had a team-high 98 tackles, four tackles for losses, and four quarterback hurries last year, and Morrison finished with 57 tackles, including five for losses, as a junior.
“Overall it was a good night,” Gilbert said. “Defensively, after a slow start, they played better. We have a lot of work to do in all phases, but overall it was a very productive scrimmage.”
Tahlequah opens its season on the road against Sapulpa on Sept. 1.
Pryor faced off against Oologah on Thursday, Aug. 17 in its first scrimmage. Head coach Kenny Davis felt his team got better as it got settled in.
Standouts offensively for the Tigers were quarterback Braden Ward, wide receivers Kendrick Propst and Gavin Roberts, who each had one touchdown, and running back Julian Espinoza.
Espinoza is coming off a season in which he combined for 867 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Propst finished the 2022 season with 335 receiving yards and three TDs, and Roberts had 107 receiving yards.
Top performers on the defensive side of the ball included linebackers Jacob Couch, Caleb Cantrell and Ashton Cabalas, defensive end Noah Cowan and defensive back Brock Ward.
Couch, a VYPE Top 100 selection, collected 86 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year as a junior. Cantrell had 21 tackles in 2022, while Cowan recorded 24.5 tackles and a pair of sacks, and Ward posted 36.5 tackles and one interception.
“Overall I was pleased with the scrimmage. We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but settled in and played well as the scrimmage went on,” Davis said. “All of our mistakes are things that we can fix, but I thought we played with great effort.”
Davis has been pleased with his team throughout fall camp.
“Been a good fall camp so, not a ton of surprises. The guys that are playing well are guys that we thought would play well. Excited to see what this group can accomplish,” he said.
Pryor opens its season on Sept. 8 in a home contest against Alma (Arkansas).
LOCUST GROVE PIRATES
Locust Grove went up against Miami on Friday, Aug. 18 under first-year head coach Paul Hix, who is still trying to establish an identity with his group. Hix was impressed with the play of wide receiver Zander Messer, and has liked what he’s seen from running back Chad Adams.
“We’re still learning who we are and where guys need to play,” Hix said. “Messer stood out with a couple of great catches, and Adams has been solid at tailback throughout camp.”
Adams rushed for 742 yards with five touchdowns last season as a junior, and Messer had five receptions for 58 yards as a sophomore.
The Pirates open their season against Salina on Aug. 31 in Locust Grove.
Westville went up against both Jay and Stilwell on Thursday, Aug. 17.
Head coach Ed Baker was pleased with the play of running back Mason Cox, linebacker Zeke Edmisten and defensive back Trypp Stephenson. Cox was able to break away for a few long runs, and Edmisten was able to generate pressure on the quarterback.
“I was very pleased with our performance in the scrimmage. We are further along offensively than we’ve been in the past at this point,” Baker said. “Our seniors have been in this system now for six years, and you can tell that they’re grasping the more complex concepts of it.
“Defensively, we played with a lot more physicality than we have in the past. I think our kids have bought into the defensive philosophy and don’t have to think as much this season on that side of the ball. They have the ability to play much more loosely this season. Leading up to this point I feel like we’ve been a much more focused team in practice and that’s a credit to our seniors and their leadership skills.”
Stephenson has been a pleasant surprise for Baker.
“He’s been a great leader and example for our younger players to follow at practice on both sides of the ball,” Baker said. “He’s very sound on both sides of the ball when it comes to his assignments. Trypp could see significant playing time for us on both sides of the ball this season.”
Westville will host Gentry (Arkansas) in its season opener on Aug. 25.
Stilwell took on both Westville and Jay in its first scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 17.
The Indians, under first-year head coach Bryan Ross, are in a transition stage after going 5-5 last season.
“I was pleased overall with our play, considering everything is a new scheme for our players,” Ross said. “Hard to single out anyone at this point, but a pleasant surprise is Tyrus Teehee, who decided to play his senior year. Will be a big help for us.”
Stilwell hosts Roland in its season opener on Sept. 1.
Adair faced off against Commerce and Chelsea in a three-way scrimmage last week.
The Warriors, under first-year head coach Brady Bradbury, had standout performances from defensive end Hayden Proctor, quarterback/defensive back Cale Winfrey, wide receiver Ryan Hedges and tight end Luke Wilson.
“The team is really buying into laying the foundation of grit, and I feel like our attitude and effort is improving,” Bradbury said. “We had a really good fall camp with new position changes. The players are excited. I am really looking forward to the season.”
Surprises for Bradbury have been Luke Wilson, Reece Jackson, who has moved from quarterback to slot/running back on offense and to inside linebacker defensively, and Ryan Wilson.
“Luke has been a vocal leader on the defensive side, which is something new for him. He is the heart and soul of the defense,” Bradbury said.
“Reece has handled [position changes] with class and continues to improve at his new positions. That’s a testament to him for being committed to the program and doing what is best for the team.
“Ryan is a sophomore that is stepping into a varsity role. It’s a thrill every time he touches the ball. Be on the lookout for him in the future.”
Adair visits Jay in its season opener on Aug. 25.
Keys scrimmaged Sallisaw Central on Friday, Aug. 18.
The Cougars had top performances from quarterback quarterback Cash Trammel, running back Boomer Robinson, wide receivers Treveon Guthrie and Austin Davis, defensive lineman Eli Scott, linebacker Austin Davis and defensive back Parker Keller.
“The kids showed a lot of toughness and showed great effort,” head coach Adam Hass said. “The effort has been good since the first practice. Parker Keller at defensive back has really progressed, and Eli Scott has made good strides.
“All of our kids have taken steps forward since Aug. 7.”
The Cougars host Gore in their season opener on Sept. 1.
Salina took on both Kansas and Wyandotte in a three-way scrimmage on Aug. 18.
Standouts for the Wildcats were defensive back Eli Swarer, receiver/defensive back Teagen Byrd, Joseph Robbins, Brandon Hawk, receiver Micah Richards, tight end/defensive end and VYPE Top 100 selection Maverick Williamson and Cody Wheeler.
“I thought we did some good things at times. Definitely things to correct and clean up but there were a lot of positives to build on,” head coach Clayton Saiz said.
Surprises for Saiz included Zaine Cagle, Cody Wheeler, offensive tackle Jax Kiener and Brandon Hawk.
Salina, who went 5-5 last season, hosts Quapaw in its season opener on Aug. 25.
Chouteau hosted Nowata and Ketchum in what will be its only scrimmage.
The Wildcats had standout performances from “B” backs Tayler Applegate, Daniel Burkholder and Mark Cato as rushers on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Nick Lunsford and the offensive line – Mathew Solider, Jaylen King, Kaleb Ramsey, Kyler Hill and Brady Nicholas – were also productive. “A” backs Jaxsen Craine, Gavin Graham and Destin McCarey ran and blocked well. Other standouts were receivers Blaine Battles and Brody Gracie.
“We looked good on both sides,” head coach Jeff Brown said. “They have come a long way since spring ball. The entire team was pleased, but all players voiced they had room for improvement. Defensively, we played well, especially against the run.”
The Wildcats travel to Mounds to face Liberty in their season opener on Aug. 31.
Hulbert scrimmaged against Inola on Thursday, Aug. 17.
Top performers included offensive lineman/defensive lineman Dusty Tedder, running back/linebacker Wyatt Tedder, Cody Botts and running back/linebacker Jose Deckard.
“Overall we have some adjustments to make on both sides of the ball. Still trying to fit personnel into the right spots. We felt like we had playmakers on the team. It’s just getting them in the right spot and getting the right scheme to fit,” head coach Chad Botts said. “We need to keep building on being more physical up front and continue to improve in our tackling, reads, and pursuits on the defensive side.
“We have several newcomers who are playing their first year of football at the varsity level. We are excited to see growth and development from every player. We preach the process and continue to get better day by day.”
The Riders begin their season with a trip to Kansas on Aug. 25.