Week two (for most) of the football playoffs finds several area teams still very much in the thick of things. And when this week is over, six classes will move on into the state semifinals while three divisions including 2A, A and B will have three games remaining. We’ll list them all for you here along with our picks and delve deeper into what we think will be the most talked about games of the week.
Written by: Nick Hampton and Bill Huddleston
We’ll start with the only team not in week two and that’s the Muskogee Roughers. Thanks to the 6A playoff format the Roughers got to spend last week off getting some injured folks healthy and pondering what went wrong at Stillwater. Friday it will be like déjà vu all over again (thanks, Yogi Berra) as the Roughers host Ponca City in the 6AII quarterfinals. It was on this same field in the same week of the playoffs that Muskogee stumbled its way to an 18-0 win over the Wildcats last year. Just like last year, the Roughers finished second in their district and the Wildcats finished third, so they had to play last week and defeated Putnam City West 27-21. The Roughers turned the ball over four times in the red zone last year in this game and it was the defense that bailed them out with four interceptions. You can be sure that offensive coordinator Chris Risenhoover has reminded his troops about that game, and I don’t think you’ll see that happening again. The Roughers have many of the same faces back that will remember that game and Ponca City also has some of the same faces back as last year in quarterback Tay Moore, a three-year starter who got hurt in last year’s game and their D-1 prospect slotback Gavin Cunningham. A big difference will be the loss of senior talent for the Wildcats in their defense which the Roughers should be able to exploit and a change in coaches three weeks ago as the Wildcats dismissed head coach Scott Harmon.
NICK’S PICK: MUSKOGEE 45 PONCA CITY 14
BILL’S PICK: MUSKOGEE 49 PONCA CITY 10
Perhaps the two best games in our area will be in the Class 4A playoffs. For the fourth straight year, the undefeated Wagoner Bulldogs, cruising toward what they hope will be back-to-back state titles, will face the Tuttle Tigers (9-2) Friday night at Odom Field. The two programs are very similar in that the annual cycle of graduation never seems to have much effect on what happens on the gridiron-they just reload and go right on. And it’s that consistency that makes preparation more difficult according to Bulldog head coach Dale Condict. “When you play these guys, you know that every year you’re facing a tough, well-organized and well coached team and it will be the biggest challenge for us this year and containing their outstanding receiver Brady McAdoo will be a key for us. We’ve played them three times and beaten them twice and both times we did, we went on to win the state title and usually the more physical team that turns the ball over fewer times will come out on top.”
Another 4A game will find our area Cinderella team Sallisaw traveling to Blanchard to face a team much like Tuttle and Wagoner that just reloads every year. The Lions are led by quarterback Carson Cooksey who has passed for over 2500 yards this season. “They also have three receivers who have 40 or more receptions each, so they’ll spread the ball around a lot and their defense is very physical and plays downhill,” said Black Diamond head coach Brandon Tyler. Blanchard is 10-1 on the year while the Black Diamonds are 7-4 but don’t let that difference fool you says Tyler. “We’re just a couple of plays away from being 9-2 this year so we feel like we’ll be competitive with them.” Seniors Cole Stephens and Brock Streun have led the Sallisaw attack this year which has put excitement back into the Sallisaw community after a couple of years of misery (1-19 and a 17-game losing streak). But Tyler has worked this magic in stops at Vian and Gore where he brought programs to the top. “I think one of the keys for me is just loving the kids and getting to know them on a personal level and not just about football,” said the veteran coach. “I think if you do that, the kids will play harder for you. Being consistent is another factor so that kids know what the routine is from practice to game day to the weight room from the seventh through the twelfth grade.” Can Cinderella continue wearing the glass slipper this week? My heart says yes but my football mind says maybe not.
NICK’S PICKS: WAGONER 28 TUTTLE 22 BLANCHARD 34 SALLISAW 25
BILL’S PICKS: WAGONER 21 TUTTLE 17 BLANCHARD 28 SALLISAW 14
Several other area teams will be hoping to practice during Thanksgiving week next week as they play on Friday. Top ranked Poteau (11-0) in Class 4A will entertain Newcastle (9-2). The Pirates still have their sights set on a re-match with Wagoner, but they’ll have to win Friday and then next week against the winner of the Blanchard-Sallisaw game to get that opportunity. I like Dax Collins and the Pirates continuing to roll this week.
NICK’S PICK: POTEAU 24 NEWCASTLE 16
BILL’S PICK: POTEAU 28 NEWCASTLE 12
The Vian Wolverines are on a roll with sophomores Masyn Wright and Draighton Fletcher leading their high-powered offense as they travel to Adair this week. The Warriors lost their first three games of the season to 2A highly ranked Keifer (which is 11-0) and 3A schools Locust Grove and Jay before running the table in district play to stand at 8-3. The Wolverines are 7-4 but two of those losses to Prague and Sequoyah Tahlequah occurred at the end of the season when Wright was suspended. Their other losses came to 2A heavyweight Washington and 3A powerhouse Lincoln Christian. The very tough schedule that coach Gary Willis challenged his team with this year is now paying dividends and, even though they’re on the road, I think the Wolverines are accustomed to the tough competition and will continue to roll into next week’s semifinals where they could get another shot at Washington.
NICK’S PICK: VIAN 28 ADAIR 18
BILL’S PICK: VIAN 22 ADAIR 21
Four other area teams are also in playoff action as the Webbers Falls Warriors will face a tough challenge at Weleetka, Gore travels to Stroud, Sequoyah Tahlequah is at Kiefer, and Central Sallisaw is home to Pawnee. The Warriors (9-2) have already atoned for their first-round exit from the playoffs last year by pounding Welch last week while the Outlaws (10-1) had no trouble with Barnsdall. Webbers Falls losses have come to district foe Caddo in a 58-52 shootout and to the odds-on favorite to take it all in Class B Dewar while Weleetka’s only loss came in the season opener to a team still going strong in the playoffs, Regent Prep (who plays Dewar this week). The Warriors have flown under the radar this year and I think they can do it again. The Gore Pirates have been another team that has not gotten much respect this year. After making the Class A championship game last year, the Pirates lost their coach and a lot of senior talent, but new coach Brandon Ellis has taken a group of hard-working guys and made a great run this year. The Pirates play in a tough district with Panama, Pocola and Central Sallisaw and stand 9-2 going into this game. I think Stroud’s resume is just a little better and playing at home I think they’ll end what has been a great season for Gore. Speaking of Central Sallisaw, they are undefeated on the year, and I look for them to keep that streak intact Friday against the Black Bears. The Sequoyah Tahlequah Indians have had a great year with an 8-3 record as they come back from a two-year shutdown of their program during Covid but I’m afraid they won’t be a match for undefeated Kiefer this week.
NICK’S PICKS: WEBBERS FALLS 36 WELEETKA 30; STROUD 26 GORE 21; CENTRAL SALLISAW 30 PAWNEE 20; KIEFER 33 SEQUOYAH TAHLEQUAH 17.
BILL’S PICKS WELEETKA 34 WEBBERS FALLS 28; STROUD 21 GORE 20; PAWNEE 21 CENTRAL SALLISAW 14; KIEFER 35 SEQUOYAH 14