, Muskogee, OK

November 13, 2013

Prep football playoff notepad: Warner, Checotah, Stigler

Phoenix Staff Reports

Warner finds hope

Warner may have gotten some encouragement from seeing Morrison take down previously unbeaten and Class A No. 2 Kiefer 32-6 last week.

“We didn’t get game film on that game but from what I was able to gather talking to people, they can be run on a little bit and I think we can mix in the pass,”  said Eagles’ coach Mike Burdge.

The Eagles take a 6-4 mark and third-place finish in District A-8 to Kiefer, runners-up in A-7, who fell to ninth after losing their district title to Morrison.

Warner did see the Trojans go against a wing T offense against Yale in a 41-14 Kiefer win in week 7 and was encouraged by that.

“They scored early off it but got beat pretty good, running off tackle and back to the short side but not consistent enough to win the game. I think we’re better in those areas than Yale and we can throw the ball better than they did.”

But Warner has also struggled on some big stages running the football this season after going 10-0 and two rounds deep in last year’s Class A playoffs.

“Against Afton (in week 9) we struggled moving the chains. That can’t happen again,” Burdge said. “If we can get 3-4 yards a pop and keep their offense off the field on Friday, I think we’ve got a chance.”

Warner’s only definite loss this Friday is linebacker Kayden Hammons, who has a strained MCL. Dakota Beene has taken his spot and has played on and off through the year.

“He’ll do fine,” Burdge said. “We’ll put in a wrinkle or two that will give us some extra confidence but at this point it’s like I told our kids, we have to treat this like a new season and by that I mean the seniors have to play like fifth-year seniors, the juniors like seniors, the sophomores like juniors and freshmen like sophomores.”

The winner will likely travel to Wynnewood, a heavy favorite against Quinton, for next week’s second round.

Checotah: Favorable bracket looms

Checotah coach Chad Hendricks didn’t have the particulars down but was happy with the news.

The Wildcats, which made the Associated Press Class 3A rankings for the first time this season at No. 9 this week, are not only guaranteed two home games by winning 3A-8, but are in a position to play a third game if form holds. Instead of a long road trip No. 2 Kingfisher on Thanksgiving weekend, Checotah would get them at home.

“We’re going one at a time but I’m excited about that possibility,” the Wildcats’ first-year head coach said. “You shoot for winning district because of the better draw but anyone can beat anyone.”

The Wildcats (9-1) have kept that concept fresh in their minds, hanging up pictures in the locker room from last year’s 35-0 first-round loss to Hilldale.

“They also have used the Stigler loss this year as a reminder that they didn’t play their best game. Both have been motivational drives for us. We got to remember how things were down there in case we think it’s going to be easy just because we earned the right to host two games. We’ve got to perform but I think we’re still improving and I’d say we haven’t played our best game yet.”

That drove them the past two weeks, getting by Eufaula by the full tiebreaker points then doing the same thing to knock Spiro from first to third in week 10. A strong first half had Checotah up 30-14 at the half in what was a 43-28 win.

“I told them if I remembered right they were 20-27 points ahead against Spiro the previous year at the half and ended up losing,” Hendricks said.

Again, they responded. And with the motivation, there’s another factor that has the head coach optimistic.

“We’re finally healthy,” he said.

Jay (6-4) has finished strong with four consecutive wins including 48-14 against Sequoyah, the key game that propelled the Bulldogs into the postseason.

The winner of Friday’s game gets the Claremore Sequoyah-Beggs survivor. Those two play at Beggs.

Stigler: Reunion set

There shouldn’t be many surprises when Stigler and Lincoln Christian meet in a 3A first-round contest at Stigler on Friday.

Stigler head coach Chris Risenhoover was offensive coordinator at Owasso when Lincoln Christian head coach Darren Melton was the defensive coordinator. LC’s current defensive coordinator, Brad Ballard, was Risenhoover’s defensive backs coach when he was at Miami. Two other staff members, Kalen Woods and Mitch Bigby, were both players under Risenhoover at Miami.

“It makes me feel like an old man,” Risenhoover said Tuesday. “We share similar philosophies, so exactly, there isn’t much we don’t know about each other.

The Panthers (8-2) were hoping to slide into the top spot in 3A-8 by getting the maximum tiebreaker point value against Idabel but then Checotah not only created the three-way tie by beating Spiro, they won by 15 and preserved their points lead over Stigler.

Was Risenhoover surprised?

“Not really,” he said. “We saw both and we had 54 points on Heavener at half and 370 yards of offense. Against Spiro we had 395 and had 14 so go figure. We didn’t execute in the red zone and left too many points on the board and didn’t have the passion we needed. But I thought Checotah was the better one after seeing them.”

Risenhoover is concerned with Lincoln running back Justin Flewellen

“He’s as good a running back as we’ve seen and outside of the Spiro quarterback we haven’t had anyone really hurt us in the run game,” he said.

Meanwhile, he likes how his offense is coming together around quarterback Seth Sandlin.

“We’re at a point where we’re getting him some protection, the running lanes are developing and we’ve got balance in our receiver skills. We’re just not a one-weapon team now,” he said.