By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
When Brandon Turley steps onto the Checotah football field tonight, he will do so from a different perspective.
Turley will be on the field as the head football coach at Henryetta, which faces his former team at 7:30 p.m. Turley was the coach of the Wildcats the previous six seasons and compiled a 43-22 record during his tenure.
“It’s nothing against the coach but those are my kids,” said Turley about the Wildcats. “And that’s just point blank just like the kids I got now are my kids as well. It’s kind of like showing up and having to go in the back yard to play a game. But that feeling will pretty much go away after we kick off.”
His Knights come in with a 1-1 record, coming off a 32-0 victory over Holdenville, against an undefeated Wildcats squad who blanked Keys 44-0 last Friday.
Technically speaking, they’re now Chad Hendricks’ kids at Checotah.
“We’ve just approached this game as business as usual,” said Hendricks. “That’s kind of what we’ve been telling them. It’s the next step in our goal to shoot for a district championship. We’ve got to prepare and get ready to go play no matter who it is.”
While some people might think that Turley’s decision to leave for Henryetta was to return to his alma mater, he’s quick to point out that it was a new atmosphere that led to the decision.
“It wasn’t necessarily because it was Henryetta,” Turley said. “In this business you can stay somewhere too long. I just kind of felt it was time to move on.
“We had done a tremendous job but I just felt it was time to make a change. It was just that’s the opportunity that presented itself but it was still a difficult decision because of the kids.”
Hendricks is aware of Turley’s scouting advantage with his hands-on knowledge of the kids and program.
“He knows the personnel,” Hendricks said. “But as far as the system, we’re completely different on defense. We’re similar on offense out of the pistol versus what he did out of the gun. He just knows who the kids are and knows what they can or can’t do.”
One thing Turley misses is the support he had in Checotah, from the school to the community.
“The support we had at Checotah was tremendous,” Turley said. “There were a few disgruntled people but that’s just the nature of the business. Coach (Brian) Terry, being the high school principal and the athletic director was another reason it made it tough to leave. He’s outstanding but it was one of those things. I felt it was time.”
Turley doesn’t want to lose this matchup either.
“We played Henryetta every year I was at Checotah,” he said. “We were in district for a couple of years together then (the matchup) wasn’t new when the districts split us up again. For the foreseeable future, we’ll continue to play each other. It’s a good game and has kind of developed into a nice little rivalry.”
His former program will eventually fade away from his association, but the kids on both sides of the field won’t.
“I’ll be 75 years old and in a wheelchair and kids that I coached when they were 16, those guys will always be my guys. But even though I’m on that other sideline, I still care for them, still worry about them and still want them to do well.”