MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

September 30, 2013

Phoenix Player of the Week, honor roll and this week's schedule: Wildcat senior turned loose

Most coaches will tell you that a balanced team is tougher to plan for than a one-dimensional one.

But when that balance comes in the body of one person, the task is even tougher as Roland found out on Friday. Checotah’s Caleb Knight ran through the Rangers’ defense for 116 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, passed for another 169 yards and three touchdowns and had eight tackles while on defense, leading the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 3A-8) to a 46-24 win over the Rangers (3-1, 0-1 3A-8) in their District 3A-8 opener to earn the Phoenix Player of the Week honor.

“He means the world to our program,” said Checotah’s first-year coach Chad Hendricks. “He’s a great leader. The kids respect him and look up to him. They have every reason to because he works hard and is very likable.

“He can run the offense and play defense. He’s just a great all-around football player.”

And Knight is finding that having Hendricks as his coach, and a new system, has not been that big a transition from the system that former coach Brandon Turley, now at Henryetta, had in place.

“The only real change was on defense,” Knight said. “We have a whole different attitude. (Hendricks) believes coming in and flying fast to the football.”

While the Wildcats entered Friday’s game at 3-0, to open the district schedule with a win at Roland, who pulled out a 22-20 in Checotah last year with the Wildcats fumbling away a chance on Roland’s 12-yard line on their final possession, was a huge boost for the Wildcats, according to Knight.

“It’s really good to win your first district game, especially it being Roland,” he said. “After them beating us last year the way they did, it was important to get the momentum rolling.”

Hendricks is glad to have Knight playing for him instead of against him. The praise the coach lays on his senior comes from years of experience.

“It’s huge to come in here and have a player like Caleb,” Hendricks said. “I was telling one of the coaches early in the year he may the best quarterback in the however many years I’ve been coaching that I’ve ever been around. He has all the intangibles – he’s a run threat, he can throw the ball well and he’s very, very intelligent.

“He allows us to do different things on offense and puts us in good positions. That type of football savvy carries over to his defense as well. I’m very fortunate to have someone like that my first year here.”

Once the newness wore off, the Wildcats got comfortable with what was expected of them. On Friday, Checotah used that familiarity to get off to a good start.

“We were really running the ball good early,” Knight said. “That really opened up the pass and we started passing all over them. We were pretty much able to do whatever we wanted to. On defense, they came out and ran stretch a lot and we were able to come up and do pretty good in stopping them.”

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