By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
They’ve heard about it — first by the coaches, but of late any time they’re hanging out in town.
Seven and 0.
The last time a Fort Gibson High football team had that mark, it was 1999 and the Teddy Lehman led Tigers were on their way to a Class 4A championship date, winning six more contests.
No team has since reached the mark set by the ex-OU Sooner and 2003 Butkus Award winner’s squad, and no other highways in Fort Gibson have been named after anyone.
This Tiger squad can by taking care of business tonight against a Muldrow team that stands 2-4 and 1-2 in District 4A-4 play. But deep down, the chat they’re hearing is more than just 7-0, it’s about what goes with it historically.
“We hear the comparisons and questions and all that jazz but with (head coach James (Singleton), it’s strictly a week by week approach, not looking behind, not looking ahead but immediately in front of us,” Jake Gandara said.
Which means don’t look at top-ranked Cascia Hall, which comes into town next week to battle the seventh-ranked Tigers.
“Don’t fall into the trap game,” Gandara said. “That’s what this week is about.”
Case in point: Muldrow comes in averaging a modest 220 yards per contest. The Tigers collected 540 against once-beaten Poteau on the road a week ago.
Lineman Andrew Brestel knows the focus is more than just talk, starting at the top.
“One of the biggest things the coaches are doing to protect us from being mentally flat is that practices are picking up in intensity,” he said. “We used to not do conditioning on Wednesdays. Now we do it Monday through Wednesday. Practices are longer and we’re in pads for three days.”
Which kind of makes those “quiet time” designations held prior to Friday night kickoffs a chance to catch one’s breath.
“I didn’t think of it that way but yeah, we probably need it at that point,” Brestel said. “Bottom line is we have to realize the importance of staying mentally sharp. Any team can beat us and that includes Muldrow.”
The focus on the task at hand has been emphasized all along. Last year, a younger Fort Gibson team learned that the hard way. After a convincing win over Webster to open district, they were stunned at Stilwell in a game the Tigers eventually got back when ineligible players forced a forfeiture.
Gandara said there were some lessons there.
“We were extremely young but it was a game we weren’t prepared for,” he said.
That team rebounded to make the playoffs as the third-place team in the district. This one has far more reaching goals.
“The town wonders if we can contend for a gold ball,” Brestel said. “Back at the first of the year the coaches brought it up that we had the capabilities, but that’s been the only discussion of it coming from them.
“It’s all been one game at a time since. And that’s the way it’s going to be.”