, Muskogee, OK

September 25, 2013

This group of Tigers facing something different

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— Now begins the portion of the Fort Gibson Tigers’ football schedule that matters the most.

The Tigers (2-1) open District 4A-4 play at 7 p.m. Friday against Tulsa Rogers (3-0). The game has been moved from Daniel Webster Stadium to S.E. Williams Stadium on the campus of Booker T. Washington High School and is Rogers’ homecoming game.

Fort Gibson is coming off a 27-26 loss to the Catoosa Indians last Friday at Leo Donahue/Tiger Stadium, its first loss of the season. After viewing the game film, coach James Singleton said what he saw on film just reinforced what he told the guys after the game.

“We left a lot of missed opportunities on the field,” he said. “We had some mental busts in key situations and some penalties at bad times we felt like cost us the game.”

That said, the Tigers were in the game right down to the final play. Fort Gibson kicker Daniel Mielnik’s 42-yard field goal with six seconds left fell short and decided the outcome.

“We had 400 yards in total offense and they had 200,” Singleton said. “Our defense held them in check the whole night. Offensively, we could never get in sync. With all that, we still got a chance to win the game in the end.”

Now the Tigers turn their attention to something they haven’t seen in a while – an undefeated Tulsa Rogers squad.

The Ropers opened the year with a 12-6 win over Okmulgee and followed that up with 30-20 victory over Oklahoma City Legion and a convincing 55-14 win over Capitol Hill.

Last season, the Tigers handled the Ropers, beating them by a score of 59-8 in Fort Gibson. This season, Singleton knows that his squad is facing a different group of athletes.

“They’re a pretty balanced team,” Singleton said. “They run the ball really well. Their tailback would be a starting tailback on a lot of teams. The quarterback is a long guy that’s deceptively fast because he’s so long and has a cannon for an arm.”

The running back Singleton spoke of is LaQurious Taft who is the Ropers’ leading rusher. When he’s not carrying the football, Knotea Lofton can step in, like he did against Legion and rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

A.J. Lewis in the signal caller for the Ropers and threw for two touchdowns and returned a fumble recovery for another against Capitol Hill. He also lets his presence known on defense with two interceptions on the year.

“They do a good job of stretching the field vertically,” Singleton said. “Defensively, they’re kind of a blitz-type defense. They have an eight-, nine-men box and play a lot of man coverage and dare you to beat them throwing.”

The Tigers will try to combat what the Ropers show by using their strength – the offensive and defensive lines.

“We feel like we probably have the advantage up front on both sides of the ball,” Singleton said. “But they’re 3-0 and having a lot of success right now and its a credit to those guys in getting that program turned around in a short amount of time.”

But, according to Singleton it all boils down to the basics.

“When we don’t have miscues, we’re a really good football team,” he said. “When we do, we’re not very good. We’ve really got to reinforce the mental side of the game because that’s the part that’s really hurt us.”