MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 3, 2013

For Vian, playoff path rings familiar tune

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— For No. 3-ranked Vian and head coach Brandon Tyler, the Class 2A football playoffs are looking like deja vu all over again.

As in 2006.

And part of that’s OK, provided the Wolverines (13-0) end up in the championship game as they did that year.

Just as then — and last year — their semifinal opponent this week is the Davis Wolves, scheduled for McAlester High School on Saturday night. That year, Vian won 34-27 and advanced on to play Millwood, which looms on the other side of the bracket opposing Hartshorne.

That’s another irony — Hartshorne lost to Vian in week 9 to decide the 2A-6 championship. In 2006, Spiro, who was also in Vian’s district, reached the semifinals and lost to Millwood.

Here’s another irony — and the one Tyler and others would just as soon avoid.

The playoffs were extended twice because of a winter storm. That’s exactly what’s forecast for Thursday and Friday with sleet the popular notion among meteorologists at this point and snow accumulation continuing into as late as Sunday.

“It’s something you really can’t control but it is what it is,” Tyler said. “I hope it goes a little like it as far as reaching the championship game and perhaps even taking it a step further.”

The fact they’re even taking steps after graduation ravaged the 2012 semifinalist Vian team that was stunned by Davis at Midwest City High School a year ago says a lot about the coaching job Tyler and staff have done and as he pointed out, the heart of this particular group — which staged comebacks against Hartshorne and even more impressively, at playoff nemesis Hennessey where they rallied from a 21-0 deficit halfway through the third quarter.

Rylee Simon’s 30-yard pass to Shamal Evans got Vian on the board with 3:34 to go in the quarter, then a 90-yard punt return with 5:10 to play by Eric Casey and a two-yard run by Simon with 38 seconds to play extended the season. Simon’s run was set up by A.J. Rodriguez’s fumble recovery at midfield with 3:01 remaining.

Simon and Casey are the only ones with significant playoff experience on this team. Compare that to the 2006 team that had quarterback Seth Sloan who ended up on the SMU roster, wideout Londell Taylor, who played minor league baseball for several years out of high school before returning home for a short stint at Oklahoma in football, and running back Vfastv Locust, who scored a state record 57 touchdowns scored as a junior the year before personal issues kept him off the field for part of his senior season.

There’s not as much similarity between the teams as there is the years, Tyler noted.

“The teams are totally different,”  Tyler said. “The first one was awfully talented and I think this one is too, just younger, and it is a hard-nosed team with a lot of guts and character shown in two big-time come-front-behind wins. They’ve grown a lot and just like this senior group was for us for several years, there’s a lot of this group that’s going to be around for a while.”

Last year’s group was on a quest to become Oklahoma’s most prolific scoring team with 821 points in 13 games before a 22-0 shutout loss to Davis that was plagued by seven Wolverines turnovers. Simon took over at quarterback when Landon Decker left with a concussion after throwing four interceptions.

Rob Boyd, who went on to sign a scholarship to play at the University of Tulsa, tweeted after Friday’s win that “tradition never graduates.”  That may explain the continuing success as well as anything.

“It’s a tradition that those guys in 2006 helped  start, those seniors last year built on and these guys have been able to follow in those footsteps,” Tyler said. “They just followed that goal and 99 percent of it is believing they could get the job done. So far, that’s happened.

“I don’t think anyone ever goes out and thinks they don’t have a chance to play for it. You never know what’s going to happen. This bunch believes it though and yeah, tradition has a lot to do with it.”

Davis, ranked No. 1, defeated No. 6 Adair 28-27 in another quarterfinal last week.