Coming up next…Muskogee area editors Nick Hampton and Bill Huddleston inspect this week’s Pick Six games and who will win.
REVENGE GAME PART ONE
Even with the renewal of the Backyard Bowl in Tulsa this week, the number one game in Oklahoma this week will be a grudge match between Class 5A top ranked Carl Albert and Class 6A-II number one ranked Muskogee. The Roughers won a 35-28 shootout last year so the Titans will be looking for payback. Both teams are loaded with talent with several players on each side having been offered or accepted D-I rides. Neither team has been truly tested in their first two wins so there are a lot of questions to be answered.
(Hampton) For me as a Muskogee broadcaster, this is a game of heart versus mind. Carl Albert, the defending state champs in 5A, was already loaded before getting a pair of transfers during the summer to enhance that power in tight end Marcus James from McGuiness and quarterback Kevin Sperry Jr. who moved in from Texas with a verbal commitment to OU and reviews as one of the best QBs in the nation. Put that together with the return of running back Xavier Robinson who rushed for 2600 yards last year and you’ve got a high-powered offense. The Roughers have lacked consistency and have committed too many penalties in their first two games so that will need to change against a team like the Titans. I still have questions about the Rougher defense and their ability to pressure the quarterback and control the secondary.
The Roughers have relied on the big play so far and whether they’ll be able to continue that against Carl Albert is a big question. But even though my brain says all of this gives an edge to the Titans, my heart says I’ve got to believe that Jamarian Ficklin and the Roughers can find the magic they need, especially playing at home, to pull out the win here so I’m going with heart over mind in what I think will be another shootout.
(Huddleston) My viewpoint on this game is which team can enforce their defensive will against the opponent….”Offense wins games…Defense wins championships.” Even though the Roughers defense was dominant in last week’s shutout win, Carl Albert has made their first two foes look very vanilla and unable to produce offensive yards much less enough scoring threats to outscore the Titans offense that will still rely upon the ability to run the ball. Muskogee has its own offensive big playmakers but for the Roughers to win at Rougher Village, the “D from the Gee” must prove they have the muscle to stay in the game. Anthony Watson and Vernon Pepiakitah MUST WIN the battles on the line of scrimmage to allow Muskogee linebackers Treyveon Houston and Tim Moore to stymie the Carl Albert ground attack while Deyonn Bowler leads the Rougher secondary in pass coverage. The team with the fewest “busts” wins. As the “voice of Rougher football” for the past four decades, I’m bleeding green in this one.
Nick’s pick: Muskogee 38 Carl Albert 32
Bill’s pick: Muskogee 31 Carl Albert 21
REVENGE GAME PART TWO
This game pits Class 4A’s third-ranked Poteau Pirates against Class 3A’s third-ranked team in Metro Christian. The Pirates dropped a 35-31 decision to the Patriots at home last year and so as they travel to Tulsa this year for the rematch they’ll be loaded for bear. Metro delivered an impressive showing in their season opener last week against NOAH while the Pirates won a squeaker against Bishop Kelley in zero week play. But the Patriots, who went to the Class 3A finals last year, lost a lot to graduation while the Pirates return 10 starters on offense including their Mr. Everything Dax Collins, a VYPE TOP 100 pick who rushed for over 1300 yards last year. Metro Christian is trying to rebuild the ship while the Pirates already have it sailing.
(Hampton): Although playing on the road is always tough, I think Poteau has the mind-set of challenging Wagoner for the title in 4A this year and I look for them to get “W” number two.
(Huddleston): Anchored by Collins and linebacker Luke Brooks (pictured above) Pirates have an attacking defense that gets to the football with enough force to leave the Patriots bruised and short on the final score. #WETSU
Nick’s pick: Poteau 34 Metro Christian 20
Bill’s pick: Poteau 28 Metro Christian 17
PICKING ON TPS
The Hilldale Hornets play their second game against a Tulsa Public Schools opponent Friday as they travel to Tulsa Hale. Hilldale posted a shutout of Edison last week while the Rangers fell to East Central. The Hornets are still finding their way with a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball this year, but coach David Blevins seems to have them moving in the right direction. Outside Central and Washington, the Tulsa urban schools have struggled for the past several years to win consistently. Hale for example is 5-72 over the past eight years including 0-10 marks the last two years.
(Hampton): The Hornets clobbered the Rangers 61-7 last year and while Hilldale doesn’t have the talent this year that they’ve had in the past, I think they’re still strong enough to knock off the Rangers.
(Huddleston): The only edge for the Rangers is that they play at home but the Hornets, whose fans will travel loud and proud…will sting their opponent to move to 2-0 in 2023.
Nick’s pick: Hilldale 38 Hale 7
Bill’s pick: Hilldale 24 Hale 6
NOT THERE YET
The Vian Wolverines continue their killer non-district schedule this week with what coach Gary Willis tells me is one of the best teams in the state regardless of class as they travel to Class 3A #2 ranked Lincoln Christian. The Wolverines are slowly but surely getting their offense together with Masyn Wright starting to get his footing at quarterback and the offense adjusting to a more run-oriented offense with the departure of Diego Ramos. The Bulldogs come in 2-0 on the season and feature quarterback Luke Milligan who threw for nearly 3500 yards last year.
(Hampton): Maybe later in the season this would be a pretty good matchup but right now I just don’t think the Wolverines are there yet to tackle the likes of the Bulldogs on either side of the ball.
(Huddleston): Traditionally, the “Vian Way” is to be physically dominant giving the offense the fuel to light up the scoreboard. The Purple and Gold are heading the “Wright direction” but on the road and with Lincoln Christian’s offensive abilities, the Wolverines have their hands full.
Nick’s pick: Lincoln Christian 40 Vian 22
Bill’s pick: Lincoln Christian 48 Vian 20
WILL THE EAGLE(S) FLY THIS FRIDAY?
After a walk in the park win over Savanna last week, the Warner Eagles will find out a lot more about their team and if the preseason optimism around the program is warranted as they play the Tigers of Central Sallisaw this week. Each team features a VYPE TOP 100 quarterback-Jace Jackson (pictured below) for Warner and Joe Lee (pictured above) for the Tigers and both have talented running backs in junior Preston Cannon for Warner and Coy Blackburn for Central. So I’ve got to think that this game will boil down to which team has the stronger defense and the edge here goes to the Tigers who return almost all of their defensive starters from a team that gave up an average of just 22 points a game last year while the Eagles return six defensive starters.
(Hampton): One of the intangibles in this game may also be Warner adjusting to a new coach and philosophy in Carter Bradley. This may also be case of Warner being a larger school (2A vs A) and if a few more bodies might make a difference. I hate to fall back on coach-speak but this may very well fall back on who can make the fewest mistakes, but if it becomes a defensive battle, I’ve got to give the edge to the Tigers in a close one.
(Huddleston) Ground game edge favors the Tigers. Whichever team eliminates the mistakes gets the win. I’ve known both coaches Jeremy Thompson (Central) and Carter Bradley (Warner) since their childhood making this choice difficult to make. Home field advantage will be the difference on the scoreboard.
Nick’s pick: Central Sallisaw 24 Warner 17
Bill’s pick: Central Sallisaw 21 Warner 14
WHO CAN STOP THE TRAIN?
The Tahlequah Tigers will host the defending Class 4A champion Bulldogs from Wagoner, again ranked atop the 4A standings this year. The Bulldogs turned what has been in the past a close game with archrival Coweta into a fairly easy 24-7 win last week while Tahlequah has to be feeling a bit deflated after leading Sapulpa most of the game last week only to lose 41-38.
(Hampton) The Bulldogs just have too many offensive weapons with quarterback Kale Charboneau and running back Trenton Edwards and a pair of talented receivers in Matson Swanson and Witt Edwards while the defense boasts talent like Alex Shieldnight at defensive end/nose guard and Keyton Cole at linebacker. I suspect that coach Dale Condict will urge his defense to not let the Tigers jump out early as they did last week, and the offense will do the rest.
(Huddleston) Tahlequah found a strong arm in quarterback Cash McAlvain and playmakers Beckett Robinson (pictured above) and Race Stopp able to make a catch in a crowd and get plenty of yards after catch in last week’s game at Sapulpa. Like Nick mentioned the ‘Dawgs Defense is sound against the pass and the run as well have having their own “big-play” heroes on offense. Tahlequah will need more than it’s 9-5-9 defensive efforts to break the bite of the Bulldogs. Wagoner goes on the road for a second week and comes home with 2-0 start.