By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
There were moments of dissatisfaction, but then, coaching staffs are sometimes the hardest to please.
Hilldale’s 36-14 win over Jay was convincing on all counts, but not without flaws. You could tell head coach Chad Kirkhart would just as soon preferred the shutout in his midweek meeting with the area scribe.
“I’d liked for us to keep them off the board right before half. I thought we gave up one there we shouldn’t have then had one late in the game,” Kirkhart said. “At times we played well, at times maybe not so great.
“But you know you’re looking at a team that in 30 to 40 snaps they’re in an empty set and throwing the ball around like they did, you can always play better but I was pretty pleased the way they played defensively. Creating turnovers are always big.”
Credit Dylan Duncan and Dakota Holmes for those.
With the Hornets holding to a 15-7 lead to start the third quarter, Jay took the ball from the 20 and drove to the Hilldale 12. There, Duncan killed the drive with an interception. On the ensuing Bulldogs’ drive, they moved from midfield to the Hilldale 18. On a second and 11, Duncan had a key hit to break up a pass, the hit knocking Vang out of the game, and defensive end Justin Sanders had a sack for a loss of seven.
Then it was Holmes’ turn to make a pick, returning it 28 yards to the Hornets’ 41. From there, Puckett tossed to Campbell just past midfield. Campbell turned it into a 57-yard TD with 2:00 on the clock in the third, making it 21-7.
Hilldale (3-1, 1-0 District 3A-7) would go on to score two more TDs over the next seven minutes, raising the lead to 36-7.
Holmes, who hasn’t played since his freshman year, choosing instead to focus on basketball, shares his coach’s thoughts. He knows there’s work to be done.
“We had a little trouble with their short routes. When they threw the ball a little deeper we were able to make some big plays,” he said.
“The biggest thing we got to do is make tackles and to do that we have to keep our eyes where they need to be. You’ve got to take the right angle. Different guys have different abilities and by that I mean, some are faster than others and you just have to take the right angle to make the open field tackle.”
Duncan got a lot out of tackle circuits this week, going up against Holmes.
“We’re not used to people juking us and Dakota’s real shifty,” he said.
Despite two years of dormancy, Holmes is pleased, but again, not totally.
“In some ways I thought I’d be further than I am. I’m making catches (on offense) and I’m making stops (on defense). I’m not where I need to be but I guess I’m in pretty good shape.”
Duncan has embraced a role in senior leadership.
“I feel like I’ve made good calls when we needed to change something and I’ve tried to help the younger guys along in practice by being there for them and offering guidance,” he said.
Up next is a non-district contest against an Inola offense that has a quarterback (Mason Stookey) who likes to run the ball himself while not throwing it. The converted tailback from 2012 ran for four TDs (1, 1, 3 and 40 yards) in last week’s 43-14 win over Okmulgee.
“We need to stay in coverage because he’ll take off and run,” Duncan said. “Stay in coverage and have faith in our guys up front to take care of things there.”
With seven teams in 3A-7, each school gets a bye week. Hilldale follows LIncoln Christian in that respect this week.
Not only will the game not impact the playoff picture, it’s Hilldale’s homecoming.
“I think each week we go back and re-evaluate what we did in this area or that area and whether it’s a district game or non-district, we don’t want to have a letdown,” Kirkhart said.
Also with the seven-team issue is 3A-6, so the two districts have hooked up with one another to fill the empty dates of those with bye weeks. Is this Kirkhart’s preferred time to have that situation fall?
He thought about Sequoyah’s situation two years ago where with a week 10 bye, their non-league opponent was a team they beat but lost to in the first round of the postseason.
“You don’t know when you draw up the schedule but that’s a worst-case scenario,” he said. “It’s good for us right now because we’re a little banged up. It’s in a good spot.”
Jake Adams is “banged up” but will play, Kirkhart said. Starting running back Seth Reheard is out again this week with an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago.