Eli Lawley lives for this.
Hilldale’s 6-foot, 215-pound senior defensive end’s chomping at the bit about facing the kind of quarterback that he’s going to line up against tonight.
Checotah’s Tyler “T.D.” Addy is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound strong-armed quarterback who stays in the pocket and rifles passes down field. He’s been quite successful at it this season, throwing for 2,289 yards in completing 143 of 153 passes (56.5 percent) and 20 touchdowns.
That’s just the kind of player that brings out the best in Lawley.
“He looks good,” Lawley said. “He’s a big guy and they also have a good wide receiver (Deondre Owens). That just means I’ve got to keep playing harder to get to him so he can’t pass. I’ve worked this week on getting a better pass rush.”
Lawley’s Hornets, who are 9-1 for the season, and Addy’s Wildcats (8-2) clash in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs at Hilldale’s Hornet Field.
This isn’t the first time this season for Lawley to be on the field against a talented quarterback. He was at linebacker in the season opener against Stigler’s Cade Shearwood and lined up at strongside defensive end versus Lincoln Christian’s Austin Grauer.
Lawley changed positions when starter Parker Olson suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season against Fort Gibson. He’s registered 48 tackles, including five for a loss, one sack and one caused fumble going into tonight’s game.
Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart is confident in Lawley will add to his totals and be able to handle the task of putting the pressure on Addy, who is in his first year as a starter.
“We want to get Addy to move around the pocket, flush him out and disrupt his timing,” the Hilldale coach said. “We’re looking for a great effort from Eli. He’s been consistent for us over the last three to four weeks.
“But this is the kind of week those guys on defense hope for and he should be excited about this week.”
Checotah coach Brandon Turley, in his sixth season at the school, respects Lawley and the rest of the Hornets’ defense.
“They’re such a good football team,” he said. “While they are not necessarily big, I like the way get after you and play physical. They’re well-coached and I’m really impressed with them.
“We’ve got to hold onto the football and catch it. We also have to protect T.D. in the passing game. We had too many three-and-out drives last week (in the 26-18 loss to Spiro) and with the style we play, we can’t do that. We’ve got to pick up some first downs here and there to keep our defense off the field.”
Lawley spent a lot of his time studying the Checotah offense on video.
“I’ve watched how their (offensive) linemen set up, how they take off when it’s a running play or how they sit back when it’s a pass,” he said.
It whets his defensive appetite.
“I liked it when I was a linebacker, but now that I’ve been at defensive end for most of the year, it’s pretty fun there as well,” he said.
“As long as I get to play, I’m fine. I just want to play.”
The winner of this game gets the winner of Verdigris-Morris. If Hilldale wins, it will host. If Checotah wins, they would host if Verdigris wins.
Checotah at Hilldale
Radio: KFOX 105.1 FM.