By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Wagoner coach Dale Condict was asked if he’s had trouble keeping his offense’s attention while looking at game film of last week’s Sallisaw-Fort Gibson game in which FGHS running back Jake Gandara turned in a 400-yard ground effort.
“You’re not going to convince kids this is the best defensive team you’ve faced. You’re kind of insulting the intelligence of your kids if you expect they’ll buy into that,” he said about tonight’s first-round Class 4A playoff matchup with Sallisaw at Wagoner’s Odom Field. “They see what’s happening (on film).”
And they’re aware that Bulldogs running back Lawrence Evitt has had that kind of showing against Oologah, ironically the team Fort Gibson faces in another 4A playoff encounter tonight, as part of his 2,378-yard season thus far.
“We’re not worried about scoring points this week as much as we are stopping them,” Condict said.
That puts his primary focus on Sallisaw quarterback Ben Oberste.
“He’s a running threat who can expose you in so many ways because he doesn’t make mistakes,” Condict said. “He’s good with the short pass game because he has a knack of getting guys the ball where you vacate (coverage).”
Black Diamonds kicker Sinue Rodriguez compounds Wagoner’s defensive challenge. He has seven field goals this season, his longest being 43 yards.
“If they drive the ball inside the 35 they will score points,” Condict said. “We might not have a lot of concerns offensively against their defense but their kicking game gives them an extra dimension. They can score points in lots of ways.”
Defensively the skill position depth Condict was hanging his hat on at the outset of the season has shrank some and impacted the back of the defensive side of the ball most with the loss of strong safety/linebacker Dylan Cantrell, free safety Kerwin Thomas and cornerback Devin Hawkins. Wyatt Probst, having had the longer time to adjust, has settled in to Cantrell’s spot. Denton Bosco for Hawkins and DeCarius Clark, the quarterback, for Thomas.
Condict’s team is attempting to defend its 4A state title with a field that includes last year’s 3A champion Anadarko and runner-up Cascia Hall, 2010 5A playoff entry Ada and the usual 4A pair of contenders, Douglass (which beat Wagoner in the 2011 final) and Clinton (the Bulldogs’ 23-0 victim in last year’s title matchup).
“The quality runs deeper than it has,” he said. “There’s about seven teams that could win this thing.”
Should Wagoner win, the Bulldogs will host the Douglass-Weatherford winner next week.