By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Muskogee head football coach Josh Blankenship has seen it happen where a look at game film eased the pain of a loss by yielding a more hopeful perspective.
He couldn’t squeeze much of that out this time, not after a 65-10 thrashing at the hands of the Broken Arrow Tigers last Friday for his team’s fourth setback in as many games.
Muskogee got two first downs and 148 total yards of offense — 134 coming on two plays.
One of those was a 74-yard pass play with Tramal Ivy on the reception — that representing the Roughers’ only touchdown. Another was a 55 yard run by Tyriq Beasley that was soon followed by a turnover on the exchange between he and quarterback Quintahj Cherry.
It was 45-10 at the half. And it looked a lot like three of the last four meetings between the teams. Along with Friday’s outcome, BA has scored wins of 70-13 in 2010 and 61-6 in 2012. In 2011, Blankenship’s first season, Muskogee had an extra point blocked at the end of regulation that sent the game to overtime where they fell in an obviously better contest, 33-26.
“It’s the first time this year we had to do some soul-searching after a game, because we didn’t show up to compete,” the coach said. “We didn’t flinch against Owasso (36-7 loss in week two) when we were whipped, or against Fayetteville (27-22 in week 3). But for some reason, a large group of our team was defeated before we even went out there Friday.
“As I told them, I can take getting beat. I can’t handle laying down before the thing’s even started.”
The key here is “before the thing’s even started.” It wasn’t, he said, after getting touchdown punch after touchdown punch, and to the point where frustration and resignation set in. And it was in spite of the fact Muskogee was minus two linebackers in Noah Ashley and Mackenzie McCall, both of whom were out due to injuries.
To start this week off, Blankenship used a lesson from Bixby’s 37-29 loss to this week’s opponent, No. 5 Westmoore (4-0, 1-0), who en route to the win was up 27-7 at the half.
“Bixby continued to play until the buzzer ran out,” Blankenship said. “They’re at minus 8 on the tiebreaker instead of minus 15. If nothing else, we have to fight for our points if we’re going to get anywhere with our ultimate goal and that’s still to make the playoffs.”
That will be the test again come Friday, if recent history is any indication. A year ago against this opponent at Indian Bowl, Muskogee donned Manual Training throwback uniforms, in recognition of the area’s black high school prior to integration. Westmoore piled up a 35-0 first-quarter lead and led 55-7 at the half. A running clock in the second half helped the game to a 55-14 finish.
Lexus Lee, who ran a punt back for a score and caught two of his eight TD passes in 2012 in this game, is back and regarded as one of the top receivers in 6A. He’s part of a core of returnees on both sides of the ball from a team that finished third behind Jenks and Broken Arrow and narrowly missed an upset of Union in the postseason.
“They’re very similar in talent to the team we just played,” Blankenship said.
Which means a pre-game checkout will certainly produce similar results.
One thing is in play to perhaps combat that.
“For a guy who is completely abandoning his fundamentals, or standing and watching a play instead of pursuing the football, other than replacing him with a guy with someone who isn’t as good talent-wise but will give you more fight and heart, we need answers,” Blankenship said. “But you’ll probably see (some of those switches) Friday.”
At 0-4 with the tough first-half nearly behind them, Blankenship is optimistic they’ll fix the work ethic.
“I think they will respond. I think they’re a good group of kids and I sincerely mean that, I wouldn’ t just say that to you,” he said. “In every situiation where I’ve told them there was an issue of something that needed to be fixed, they responded and fixed it.”