, Muskogee, OK

September 17, 2013

Returning to class: FGHS begins run of 4A schools, starting with Catoosa

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— After wins over a Class 5A and 3A school, the Fort Gibson Tigers can turn their attention to 4A squads beginning Friday when they welcome Catoosa to Leo Donahue/Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers enter the game with a 2-0 record courtesy of a 42-33 win at Tahlequah to open the season and a 17-10 nail-biting victory over rival Hilldale last Friday night. Catoosa arrives at 1-1, having lost to Pryor 24-0 to start the year then bouncing back with a 21-14 victory over Collinsville.

As the week of preparation for the Indians begins, Fort Gibson learned on Monday that it did not come out of the Hilldale matchup complete healthy.

“We lost our tight end McKenna Terrell,” Singleton said. “Initial reports we believe he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Other than that, we’re in good health.”

Offensively, Catoosa brings something to the table that the Tigers don’t face all that often. The Indians are a team that lines up and tries to shove the ball down an opponents throat.

“We’ve kind of gone against two spread-type teams the last two weeks,” Singleton said. “Catoosa runs a double-tight end, split back kind of smash mouth offense. They’ll get in the gun and do some things but basically they want to control the ball. They’re very big up front and very physical kids.”

Guiding the Indians’ offense is quarterback Caleb Wilsey who had run for 61 yards on 12 carries and has completed 11 of 17 attempts for 168 yards.

When the Indians keep it on the ground, their main threats are Darren Fowler (40 carries, 135 yards, one touchdown) and Hunter Harrison (21-110, two TDs).

“They run the ball 90 percent of the time,” Singleton said. “They do throw in some type of play action but philosophy-wise it’s a little different type of program than we’ve had to defend the last two weeks.”

And Catoosa’s size could present a problem for the Fort Gibson defense.

“D-line wise, we’re probably a little undersized compared to a lot of schools we might play this year,” Singleton said. “That’s kind of why we went to a three-down linemen look. The big thing for our guys is we’ve got to keep out pad level down and get in the gaps and try to get as much penetration as we can.”

On defense, the Indians will look like a team the Tigers have already faced.

“They’re similar to Tahlequah they way they line up,” Singleton said. “They’re very big in size and very athletic. It’s good we get Jared Ragland back this week, who had to sit out the Hilldale game and Bennett Willis was battling a high ankle sprain last week. Getting those two back at 100 percent is going to help tremendously.”

As with any game, the team that makes the fewest mistakes increases its chances for victory. Singleton knows that is critical if the Tigers are to keep their record unblemished.

“On offense, we just have to go out and continue to execute,” he said. “We were really bad in the first half against Hilldale and made some minor adjustments and were really good in the second half. As with any game, making big plays and not giving up big plays is critical. In high school football, that’s always a big key in big, big games.

“We feel like this is a big, big game. Catoosa’s a playoff-type team in 4A. They’re going to have a chance to compete in district with Wagoner and Oologah. So we really don’t have time to sit back and relax.”