By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
For both Vian and Davis, the 7 p.m. meeting tonight at McAlester High School in a Class 2A semifinal rings with much familiarity.
The two coaches go way back. Davis coach Jody Weber’s brother Matt was a roommate of Vian coach Brandon Tyler while the two attended Northeastern State.
Tonight’s game is a rematch of a 22-0 Wolves win over the Wolverines at Midwest City High School. Davis then lost to Oklahoma Christian.
But go back to 2006 and the two teams met in a semifinal that came on the heels of a winter blast that had postponed the contest. In that one Vian won 34-27 and went on to play Millwood, which sits on the other side of this year’s bracket.
The two teams are fairly young. Of the 45 on Davis’ roster, 10 are seniors. Of Vian’s group of 43, seven are seniors.
Both have a team-first approach embedded in the minds of the kids.
“They want to be a part of something successful and we’ve built a tradition here,” Vian coach Brandon Tyler. “Every year these kids want to uphold that regardless of how many kids we lose to graduation.
“They lost a lot too. But they’ve got just as good a tradition.”
And, the right mindset in upholding it.
“We’re in an instant gratification world and these kids are a bunch of givers who don’t expect to get anything immediately, who know there’s a job for guys who don’t start. They accept that role,” Weber said.
Case in point. In the archaic but effective wishbone offense Davis runs, junior quarterback Blake Summers and fullback Braden Ruth are the only Wolves with over 1,000 yards of offense, both over 1,200 in all. But 10 have carried the ball in at least seven games.
Summers, the team leader in interceptions, and Ruth go both ways, two of three players who do that. Summers is in the secondary and Ruth is an inside linebacker. Furthermore, Ruth, at 235 pounds for football, is the reigning 3A heavyweight wrestling champion.
While young, both teams have had high expectations, even if others didn’t.
“The difference between this year’s team and last year’s, more than anything, is its personality. The pressure to go blow everyone out isn’t there. Their concern is just go win and advance, so they’re more relaxed. They work their tails off, they’re really together as a group and don’t have any stars. They don’t need any stars.”
This even keel has helped them survive deficits in the last two playoff rounds, including a 27-14 deficit against Adair two weeks ago in the quarterfinals where they won 28-27. The other was a second-round win against Christian Heritage, 34-29.
Vian’s two biggest weapons are both underclassmen. Quarterback Rylee Simon has thrown for 1,372 yards and rushed for 1,166. Eric Casey at tailback is closing in on a 2,000-yard rushing season with 1,871 yards and 29 TDs. Shamal Evans, who is a senior, is Simon’s top passing target with 553 yards, but has yet to top 100 yards in any single outing.
“They’re new guys but talented guys,” Weber said. “They’re sound defensively and they don’t blitz their way out of trouble. They do what they do but for the most part it’s the same, just a lot of new kids.
“One thing about Brandon is that ever since he’s been there, he’s won. Every year they’ve been in the discussion when it comes to finding a champion. That’s a tribute to him and that program.”
Simon, at linebacker, leads the team in tackles (169) for the second consecutive year. He’s spent part of the extra week of preparation watching film, getting a better visual sense of the Davis wishbone.
“It’s not what you see every day and it takes a bit to get used to,” he said. “I don’t think we were ready for it last year.”
He also has to go against Davis’ 3-4 defense behind center, something he did in a lesser than ready situation last year as he was called into duty when then-starting quarterback Landon Decker suffered a concussion during the game.
“Last year is motivational for us. You definitely don’t want to get put out by the same team a second time,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go. This is a team that’s learned to perform and dug deep during hard times. We’re happy with what we’ve accomplished but we’re not satisfied even though some outsiders looked at all we graduated and didn’t expect this.
“I’ve known from my entire life growing up with these younger guys how they can play. I expected to be here. We all did and our goal is to take it the distance.”
Vian vs. Davis
When: 7 p.m.
Where: McAlester HS
Records: Vian 13-0, Davis 13-0.
Last week: Vian 21, Hennessey 20; Davis 28, Adair 27.
Last meeting: Davis 22, Vian 0 (2012).
Series record: Tied, 1-1.
Notes: First meeting came in the semifinals of the 2006 playoffs with Vian winning 34-27...Vian's seventh appearance in the semifinals. Wolverines teams are 4-2 in the previous six...Davis is in the playoffs for the 43 rd time...The Wolves are 93-37-1 with four state titles, the latest coming in 1995.