MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 20, 2013

Warriors coach thinks they’re beginning to jell

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— Last season was a learning experience in happiness and disappointment for the Bacone Warriors’ football team.

The Warriors finishing the season with a 6-3 record and earned the program’s first top-25 ranking, receiving the No. 23 spot in the NAIA coaches poll heading into the final game of the season.

The hardest lesson learned was how close the Warriors came to extending their season, falling to McMurry in the season finale which ultimately cost them the school’s first postseason berth, a lesson the Warriors are eager to correct.

"You can see that a lot of the kids are ready to get going," said Bacone coach Trevor Rubly. “We’re starting to get more leaders and see the writing on the wall that we have a chance to do things here. I do see that excitement and fire.

This year, the Warriors are working to correct mistakes that figured heavily in the three losses as they conclude offseason practice with the annual spring game at 2 p.m. today at Indian Bowl.

One area that Rubly is looking just to fine tune is the defense which led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in total defense. Rubly is looking to replace three all-conference players in Paul Mpagi, Dustin Sherer and Daniel Shield.

One person looking to fill the void at defensive end is Preston Sanders, a transfer from NCAA Division I FSC runner-up Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas.

“Preston played for Sam Houston State all the way up until the championship game,” Rubly said. “He got into a little trouble and had to transfer and since I played for (Willie) Fritz in my collegiate day, I got a phone call and all I have to say is wow, he is dominating.

“The offense is coming in every day and we’re having to change plays. He’s going to be a big one for us.”

The offense will be the capable hands of senior-to-be quarterback Kyle Kuban but the Warriors are looking to replace Tyler Thomas who led Bacone in rushing with 822 yards on 133 carries and eight touchdowns. Rubly said there are a couple of candidates that have put their names on the ballot.

“The front runner is Aaron McCoy who was Tyler’s backup last year,” Rubly said. “But we got a couple of guys that are pushing for that spot. Kyle is also getting pushed for his starting spot.”

One person giving Kuban a run for his money is Karl Birkenfield, a 6-3 senior-to-be from Bronx, N.Y., via West Alabama.

“Karl got here in the fall and is doing some good things,” Rubly said. “He got here too late to learn the system and be comfortable in it, but is now pushing Kyle for the starter’s job.

Whoever earns the starting job at quarterback, a new face that he will throw to is David Chapman, a transfer from Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas.

“David actually got here last year but was ineligible,” Rubly said. “But he’s been working hard in camp and we’re getting him on track to get eligible for this year. Jamaal Surrell got a lot of playing time last year and has stepped up in camp.”

While every year a coach has to replace key members of the previous year’s roster, Rubly is comfortable the people filling the voids this year can be equal to or better that the players they are replacing.

“Paul and Dustin did a great job for us last year and I’m going to miss them,” Rubly said. “But I’m going what our offense is telling us, and that’s all I have to go on, and they’re telling us we’re better than last year.”