By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Eufaula coach Larry Newton made the observation in a moment of reflection on his Ironheads’ 2013 campaign.
Shifting Daxton Williams from his customary defensive tackle to defensive end due to need, it created a soft spot in the middle of the Eufaula defense.
“He’s better inside against the run and I think that was when things went downhill for us defensively,” Newton said.
Williams took it in stride.
“You do what you’re asked to do and I’m going to go anywhere he needs me to,” Williams said. “I’d rather play inside because I’m a little quicker against the guys I match up with there and I can clog the gap up easier. But it’s what was needed, so I went to the outside.”
Having your uncle as coach brings a little more accountability on those things.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior will be back at the tackle spot this year and should be one of the area’s best. He could be an even better tight end, where he was a standout at a camp in Duncanville, Texas, and will go to the University of Oklahoma’s elite camp this month.
“I want to be the guy where there are moments I can put the team on my back,” he said.
One thing stands as key to making that happen, said his coach.
“Up to now I think one of his biggest drawbacks is a lack of a mean mentaility,” Newton said. “He's becoming more comfortable with his body size so I think that will come around.”
The light went on in basketball, Williams said.
“I was the guy in the paint and I had to make myself a bruiser-type,” he said. “I’m just translating that mindset to the field.”
Graduation hit the area hard on the defensive front. All-Phoenix Defensive Player of the Year Tramal Ivy, who played substantial time there for Muskogee High School a year ago but also manned the free safety and a linebacker spot, is gone. The two highest vote-getters at the position, Hilldale’s bookends of Justin Sanders and C.J. Hunnicutt, both are gone. Among those returning who look to step up are as follows:
2. Shane Philpott,
Sequoyah, 6-1, 255, Sr., DT
“He’s got bigger and stronger and more of an impact guy on defense although he’s good on the offensive front too,” said Indians coach Shane Richardson. “We’ll move him around because of his athletic ability. He can play a defensive end when we’re in a 3-4. UCO is interested in him.
3. Michael Rosales, Fort Gibson, 5-11, 225, Sr., DT
“Ultimately the defensive line sets the entire tone for the defense. Rosales sets the tempo. He gets great penetration and is rarely blocked one on one if ever,” Tigers coach James Singleton said. “He’s done a great job developing his leverage and violent hand play.Those two things may be his greatest assets.”
4. Andrew Sands,
Checotah, 6-1, 250, Jr., NG/DT
“He’s very athletic and actually is in the battle for our quarterback job,” Checotah coach Chad Hendricks said. “When he’s on defense, he’ll have you double team him and he’ll still make plays.”
5. Dominique Pulse, Checotah, 6-3, 200, Sr., DE
Missed three games due to an ankle injury but should seize the attention that DeMarco Patterson did at that spot a year ago.
“He’ll be a disruptive force on the outside,” Hendricks said. “He’s very athletic.”
6. Kevin Chew, Vian, 6-1, 180, Sr., DE
Had 77 total tackles and four sacks in 2013.
“Relentless as a pass rusher,” Vian coach Brandon Tyler said. “He’ll give you 100 percent and chase people down. Being a one-way player he’ll be on the field the whole time defensively.”
7. Joshua Medrano, Muskogee, 6-3, 210, Sr., DE
There may be others that have a better skill set, but attitude is what MHS defensive coordinator David Heath says makes Medrano, who played opposite All-Phoenix Defensive Player of the Year Tramal Ivy and had 41 tackles, 24 solo and four for losses.
“He’s a coach’s kid, he’s there every day, he works his butt off and he’s someone you can count on,” he said. “He’s quick off the ball and he’s a good technician. You show him something, he’s going to do what you show him.”
8. Zack Jones, Warner,
6-2, 175, Sr., DE
He had 37 tackles, 27 solo, and nine for losses as a junior nose tackle.
“He showed us some quickness and I think he’ll be one of the best linemen in our district this year,” Eagles coach Mike Burdge said. “He’s got as good a work ethic as anyone I’ve been around coaching-wise.”