Even though it was an abbreviated schedule, the zero-week gridiron action provided fans plenty of excitement as the 2023 football season begins.
Written by Nick Hampton and Bill Huddleston, Muskogee Area VYPE+ Editors
Lead Photo courtesy Hasler Productions
POTEAU 24 BISHOP KELLEY 21
“It was like playing in a oven.”
The words of head coach Greg Werner defined the searing heat at Costner Stadium as Poteau withstood the weather and the physical challenges of the Comets for a 24-21 victory.
“It was brutal for both teams but all in all I thought our kids held up to the weather challenges,” Werner explained. “In the end we made it harder that it should’ve been but all in all it’s a good start against a very good football team.”
After building a 21-7 advantage, the Pirates got a big kick as Ethan McBee nailed a 47-yard field goal that proved to be the winning margin after Bishop Kelley had closed the gap to a one score margin.
“Having someone like Ethan who can put points on the board like that is a big plus,” Werner said with a smile.
Playing without halfback Jackson Sommers, who suffered a broken collarbone in last week’s scrimmage, the Pirates personnel adjustments remained productive.
“Spencer Perry (pictured above) is normally our fullback who moved into Jackson’s place and really got us rolling,” Werner said noting the sophomore’s 100-yard plus rushing effort. “I also was proud of results we got from Holden Mattox and Wayln Waddell. And of course, Dax was Dax (Collins) on both sides of the ball. Defensively he was playing at a championship level.”
Werner was pleased with the efforts of the defense including the physicality of linebacker Luke Brooks (pictured above).
Poteau will have an open date this week before taking on Metro Christian on September 8th.
STIGLER 35 SALLISAW 34
Certainly one of the more interesting games in our area was Stigler’s 35-34 come-from-behind win over arch rival Sallisaw. It was a game that saw the Panthers jump out to 19-6 halftime lead that expanded from there.
“We felt pretty good at the half and in control,” said Panther head coach Cade Shearwood. “We scored right away to start the second half and got a two-point conversion to make it 27-6 and we thought we were about to put it away. But then we started turning the ball over and their quarterback (Brock Streun) went crazy, and we couldn’t stop him. He led them on a scoring drive to make it 27-13. Then we turned the ball over twice and had a blocked punt and suddenly with about 10 minutes to play they’re ahead 34-27. We finally kept our composure and scored again with about two minutes left to make it 34-33. We called a time out to talk about it and decided to go for two. Our quarterback, Mcade Peery (pictured above) , runs a bootleg and throws a basketball-like pass to a receiver in the end zone to put us ahead. Then we have a terrible kickoff, and they end up with the ball at their 45 with two minutes left but our defense did a good job of shutting them down on four straight plays to preserve the win.
Mcade ended up with 208 yards passing with two touchdowns and another 119 running, Mason Jones (pictured above) had 142 yards receiving and a touchdown, and Houston Peery added another 100 yards and touchdown receiving.”
The Panthers will try to keep the magic going this coming week as they play their home opener against Catoosa.
HEAVENER 33 POCOLA 32
The Wolves had plenty to howl about following a back and forth 33-32 victory over Pocola in the home opener for Heavener. The hosts rushed for more that 400 yards in the win using the combined efforts of P.J. Ridley, (pictured above) who carried the ball 33 times totaling 225 yards and three touchdowns along with Jackson Armstrong’s (pictured below) 82 yards and the 17 carries by Hagen Ritter totaling 72 yards to reach the end zone.
Down 32-27 at intermission, the only points of the second half came on a touchdown run by Armstrong on the Wolves second series of the third quarter while Heavener’s defense kept the Indians scoreless in the final two quarters. Jackson Clubb had a pair of interceptions while teammates Jeremy Casteel and Camden Broyles each had fumble recoveries.
“We beat a very good football team by running the football right at them,” said coach Jeff Broyles, who commended his “big uglies” for their efforts in the heat on the offensive line celebrating the aggressive efforts of Jacob Vickers, Kevin Bretado, Travis Kincaid, Jayden Long, Blaine Smallen along with Casteel and Broyles. “Winning the opener is huge for us. This time we fought through the all challenges and got the win.”
Heavener (1-0) will remain in front of their hometown fans in this week’s action playing host to Central Sallisaw in a 7pm kickoff.
MUSKOGEE 49 ENID 27
It was definitely hot night at Rougher Village as temperatures remained near the century mark at kickoff; and at times, the highlight moments fueled play for both teams with the same sizzle. The Roughers used those kind of plays to record the 49-27 win over Enid. But, the not so energized plays left Muskogee coach Travis Hill wanting more from his team.
“First games will always get your attention, and without even going over the film, you can see that we have to become more consistent on every play,” said Hill. “Because we have some really good athletes, just like tonight we’re going have our share of big plays offensively and defensively; but when you aren’t doing that on every snap you create big play chances for the opponent. All in all we won and we’re healthy; but now it’s time to go back to work.”
Sparked by two highlight reel moments from junior standout Ondraye Beasley, including a 58-yard scamper for a score and moments later breaking tackles on a pass reception from Jamarian Ficklin to dash 64-yards to put the Roughers in front 14-7, the Muskogee offense went on to total 566 yards by racking up 323 yards rushing
with LaTavion Johnson scoring three times. The Roughers added 243 yards through the air as Ficklin completed 10 of 16 passes including a 74-yard strike to Kayden McGee.
Hill could only smile when speaking about Beasley, who some have questioned could he repeat the big plays like he did last season as a sophomore.
“If you were here tonight, you could see that Ondraye Beasley is a really good football player. He had over 100 yards rushing and more than 100 yards receiving with two scores. He’s someone we’re expecting to play a major role again this season.”
All in all, Hill enjoyed getting the win but expects his squad to continue to improve.
“It’s a new year and even though we have a lot of returning lettermen, these kids haven’t got to see it all take place. We’re missing a few things and I think I know how to fix them and I look forward to that.
The top-ranked Class 6A-II Roughers (1-0) will go on the road next week traveling to Putnam City (0-1) to play a team that Hill expects will provide a stern challenge of his team’s ability.
“It’s another good test from a team that last year was very athletic and played very hard against a tradition rich team Bishop McGuiness (35-20 Irish win). Without question, we’ve got to get better on every play.”
CHECOTAH 43 EAST CENTRAL 14
The ‘Cats went wild from the opening kick and roared to an impressive 43-14 win over the Cardinals.
Checotah got their season off to a strong start with a kickoff return touchdown by VYPE TOP 100 player Elijah Thomas and never looked back.
“Returning quarterback Jacob Jones had a great game going 18-23 for 256 yards and the offensive line played well,” said head coach Zac Ross. “We had a couple of busts in the secondary that led to their two scores but otherwise we played pretty well on that side of the ball as well.”
The Wildcats will play the second of five straight home games (thanks to an unplayable field early last season that forced them on the road) this week as they host Sequoyah Claremore.
OOLOGAH 56 FORT GIBSON 20
Fort Gibson’s young guns found the going rough as they fell to Oologah 56-20.
“Oologah is a good team and our kids played hard, but we just had too many mental mistakes which will happen with a young team like ours,” said head coach Ryan Nolan. “We had a good game from our two running backs, Brelyn Macomb who had 192 yards rushing and Judd Rudd who had 75 yards. Our offensive line played well at times but needs to be more consistent. On defense linebacker Connor Welch played solid and Stevie Vefeas had a good game at defensive end. We’ve just got to get more consistent and give our freshmen the reps they need to get better.”
The Tigers will show off all the new at Leo Donahue Stadium in their home opener this week as they host Berryhill.
HILLDALE HORNETS’ FINAL SCRIMMAGE PROVIDES POSITIVE PROGRESS
The Hilldale Hornets had their final tune up before the real deal begins with a scrimmage Thursday at Grove. They played two games with a 22-minute running clock, tying Tahlequah 7-7 but losing to Grove 7-0.
“I saw a lot of improvement from the first scrimmage,” said head coach David Blevins. “We blocked better in the offensive line and running back Blake Johnson and quarterback Dawson Fields (pictured above) both showed a lot of improvement. We scored on a 17-play drive with Gage Roland going in for the score. Defensively we showed a lot of grit and flew to the football.”
The Hornets will open the season at home this Friday against Tulsa Edison.
“Edison will bring a lot of speed with them, and we just have to control what we can control and be disciplined,” said Blevins.
WAGONER READIES FOR SEASON OPENER AGAINST CLAREMORE
Although it was only a scrimmage, the Bulldogs got another chance to improve against the Zebras in a half-game scrimmage were both teams would only once.
“I’ve learned to not to be too positive or negative after a scrimmage,” said Wagoner coach Dale Condict. “We still made some of the typical early season mistakes with penalties and a turnover, but I believe we got better. I am really glad we didn’t have to play a full game in the brutal heat that teams faced last Friday night.”
Asked about players that have caught the attention of the Wagoner coaches, Condict singled out offensive lineman (pictured above ) Dax Griffin (6-4, 285, Jr.) and defensive safety Anthony Coleman (6-1, 175, Jr.) who also plays wide receiver, for their efforts heading into the season opening contest Friday night in a Wagoner County showdown against the Coweta Tigers, who will enter with a 0-1 record after dropping a zero-week battle against Carl Albert.
“It’s a rivalry game for both teams that traditionally will be a battle into the fourth quarter,” said Condict. “Having played a full game is a plus for Coweta. We know that we have to control their ground game and then control their defensive front, a group we haven’t blocked very well that last two years.”
The scheduled 7pm kick at Coweta is the first of two road games for Wagoner, as the Bulldogs will also go on the road to Tahlequah on September 8th before returning home to meet Grove on September 15th.