Tonight when the Fort Gibson Tigers take the field tonight at Leo Donahue-Tiger Stadium, it will mark the first home playoff game for the Tigers in 13 years.
The last time the program hosted a playoff game was in 1999 when Fort Gibson defeated Grove 35-29 in the Class 4A quarterfinals. Tonight’s opponent will be the Oologah Mustangs in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
“We scrimmaged them before the season started so we know a little about them from that,” said Tigers’ coach James Singleton. “Brandon Craig (Oologah coach) does a great job with that team. They finished third in Wagoner’s division (4A-3) and they’re not a typical third-place district type team.”
The Tigers (9-1) enter the game coming off a 49-42 win over Sallisaw in which Fort Gibson trailed the Black Diamonds 21-0 after the first quarter. Oologah (6-4) closed the regular season with a win over Catoosa 44-34, a team the Tigers beat 35-32 in the third game of the year.
“They’re big and physical up front,” Singleton said. “They’re balanced on offense and run a lot of play-action passes and they don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Both the Tigers and Mustangs prefer to move the football on the ground. Fort Gibson averages 278 yards rushing while the Mustangs are at 175. Through the air the Tigers are averaging 93 yards per contest while Oologah 81 yards per game.
“We’ve been trying to preach to the guys that this is just a game,” said Fort Gibson offensive coordinator Greg Whiteley. “We can’t get the guys too hyped up.
“We’re thrilled to be here, don’t get me wrong. We’re one of 16 teams that didn’t have to check in their gear last Monday. Those teams would love to swap positions with us.”
Last Friday against Sallisaw, Jake Gandara set a school rushing record with 397 yards. Earlier this season, Wagoner’s Lawrence Evitt ran for 408 yards with six touchdowns against the Mustangs and Whiteley said that’s like comparing apples to apples.
“Evitt has been doing that to a lot of teams this year,” he said. “Of course, we have a guy that has been doing that to a lot of teams.”
If defensive coordinator Kenyatta Wright had to design a defense to stop the Tigers’ offense, he isn’t sure where to start.
“There are so many weapons,” Wright said. “As another team trying to prepare for our offense, I believe there are too many keys to focus on. You can’t make mistakes. An offense as high-powered as ours forces you to make mistakes.”
As for stopping Oologah, Wright said consistency is the key to winning the game.
“We’ve done that at times during the course of the season,” Wright said. “We have to put together four quarters of football moving forward and doing the simple things right. We have a lot of athletes that can be successful if they just get lined up and do things right.”
Oologah at Fort Gibson