As the kickoff of the 2023 football season draws nigh with several teams involved in Zero-week contests while others will have one additional scrimmage next Friday, I am excited for another year of high school football.
I watched with great expectations to see how the Muskogee Roughers would return to competition against a high quality opponent in the defending Class 6A-I state champion Bixby Spartans at Lee Snider stadium.
First of all, the warfare, which ended in a 13-6 advantage for the host Spartans, was a survival of who could withstand the heat and humidity.
“We saw the effects of the heat out here tonight as the competition wore on,” said Travis Hill, coach of the Muskogee Roughers. “We made silly mistakes that happen when you get tired, mental errors like alignment but they’re all things that are correctable.
The Roughers hurt their own chances to score offensively with three turnovers but used a defensive takeaway to put points on the scoreboard when Roughers senior strong safety Deyonn Bowler (pictured above) intercepted a Bixby pass at the Muskogee goal line and worked his way to the opposite field sideline and raced 100 yards for the pick-six touchdown return.
“I back pedaled, saw the ball and made a break on it. My instincts were just to make a play and get to the end zone,” said Bowler, who snatched five interceptions last year. “We’ve just got to get used to the pace of game time action and get better every play.”
Scrimmages are designed to spotlight after review of game video to identify what needs to happen next, which for the Roughers is a Zero-week home opener at Rougher Village against Enid.
“There were some positive performances by several of our kids,” Hill said noting he was eager to review the video from the matchup against Bixby.
“As a whole we’re where we need to be, I was just a little disappointed in the mental aspects of what happened tonight. What I did see is the opportunity to be a real good football team. And, best of all, we came out healthy.”
For me, I’ll be glad to be back in the air-conditioned press box at Rougher Village next Friday because tonight on the turf it was a scorching sauna.
WARNER VS. HASKELL
The Warner Eagles moved one step closer to the start of the 2023 season with the first of two scrimmages against the Haskell Haymakers.
“Overall, we played very well. In playing a first scrimmage, there are many learning opportunities that will allow us to improve,” said first year head coach Carter Bradley.
In the first live action of the season, Warner put four touchdowns on the scoreboard while the Eagles defense held the opponent scoreless.
“On offense, I thought our execution and mental toughness overall was very good,” said Bradley. “By posting a shutout, the defense was very solid.”
Players earning recognition for the efforts include wide receiver Keden Moseley and running back Logan Collins along with a defensive trio including linebacker Lubbock Drake, defensive lineman Jaiden Shanks and safety Reed Pickering.
Head coach Carter Bradley’s squad will have another scrimmage next Thursday at Eufaula before opening the regular season September 1 at home against Savanna.
WAGONER at McALESTER
The pace of competition was at a feverish level as the two teams squared off under the scorching sun at Hook Eales Stadium, First National Field in McAlester.
Wagoner, the defending Class 4A state champions, failed to score hampered by their own mistakes and turnovers while the Buffaloes, back-to-back Class 5A state finalists, reached the end zone once during the half of game action.
“We have a lot to work on. We didn’t run the ball well and defensively we didn’t stop the run like we’re capable of,” said Dale Condict, head coach of the Bulldogs.
The coach liked what he saw from his quarterback even though Wagoner failed to score.
I thought Kale (Charboneau) threw the ball OK but it’s hard to tell when you have four or five passes dropped,” Condict said. “We honestly didn’t have anything significant offensively.”
The approach to the scrimmage was apparently different between the two teams as McAlester will open their regular season next Friday on the road at Broken Bow while Condict’s squad will have another scrimmage next week against Claremore to tune-up for the September 1 season opener on the road against Coweta in another rendition of the Highway 51 rivalry.
“It’s a long season and we have a long ways to go. Hopefully it was a wake up call for us before we play for keeps.”
TIGERS SHOW THE “NEW” IN SCRIMMAGE
Written by Nick Hampton – VYPE+ Muskogee Area Editor
FORT GIBSON vs. CASCIA HALL
The word new would be a good adjective to describe the atmosphere Friday night at Leo Donahue Stadium in Fort Gibson as the Tigers scrimmaged Cascia Hall.
New turf, new scoreboard, new lights and a new, or maybe inexperienced, look to the football team as the Commandos beat Fort Gibson 14-0 in two game-rules quarters of play.
“We got tired and when we did, we made mistakes,” said coach Ryan Nolan. “I think our youth showed with penalties and dropped passes. Our offensive line struggled early on but then then came on better in the last few series. But I think if we can better execute what we did tonight we’re going to be a pretty good football team.”
Freshman quarterback Logan Bethel went the distance for the Tigers hitting on just one of eight passing, but Nolan felt that was misleading.
“I was pretty happy with Logan’s play. The stats don’t show it but most of his passes were on the money and many were just dropped. I was also pleased with the play of freshman right tackle Cooper Hacket on the offense.”
Junior running back Judd Rudd did most of the heavy lifting for the Tigers carrying 10 times for 47 yards.
The Tigers had their best scoring opportunity in the second quarter when they took control at the Cascia Hall 36-yard line. With Rudd doing most of the work, they moved the ball to the Commando four-yard line but on a fourth-and-four Bethel’s pass was completed but just out of the back of the end zone.
Sophomore quarterback Barrett Mullen engineered both scoring drives for the Commandos, ranked fourth in the VYPE Class 3A preseason rankings.
The Tigers open the regular season Friday night at Oologah.
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE AREA
In other scrimmage notes, Vian and Checotah played to a scoreless tie Thursday night with a 20-minute running clock. Wolverine coach Gary Willis was pleased with the effort of his team but maybe a little disappointed there was no scoring. VYPE TOP 100 player Riley Willis ran the offense for Vian while super sophomore Masyn Wright, who may eventually take over that QB spot, was at running back.
“We knew going in that our passing game needed some work and it showed,” said Willis. “I thought Riley did a good job at quarterback, but I was particularly pleased with his play on defense.”
Vian, ranked fifth in our preseason poll in Class 2A, plays perhaps the toughest schedule in its class and will jump right into the fire Friday as they travel to defending Class 2A champion and preseason top pick Washington. Check here for more on that game later this week.
The Hilldale Hornets took part in a four-way scrimmage with Catoosa, Lincoln Christian and Beggs including a two-quarter scrimmage with Catoosa that the Hornets won 7-0.